Unjust Verdicts

In Murmansk, a Court Sentenced Vitaliy Omelchenko to a Fine of 580,000 Rubles for the Peaceful Confession of his Faith

Murmansk Region

On September 22, 2022, Roman Girich, judge of the Oktyabrsky District Court of Murmansk, found Jehovah's Witness Vitaly Omelchenko guilty of organizing the activities of an extremist organization and sentenced him to a fine of 580,000 rubles.

The criminal case against the believer was initiated in December 2019. A search was carried out in his dwelling, and a month later the believer was detained in the evening near his house and sent to a temporary detention center. After 2 days, the court released Omelchenko under a ban on certain actions. FSB officers monitored his movements, calls and collected other information about his personal life.

The Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Murmansk Region investigated the case for 13 months, and in February 2021 it was transferred to the Oktyabrskiy District Court of Murmansk. Court hearings, which were held behind closed doors, lasted about 20 months. Although there is not a single victim in the case, the prosecutor asked the court to sentence the believer to six years in prison in a penal colony.

The accusation was built on the words of the secret witness "Polonskiy". Most of his testimony related to the period before April 20, 2017. He said that preaching was not prohibited in Russia, but at the same time spoke negatively about the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses, expressing his personal opinion about the reasons for the liquidation of their legal entities in Russia.

The verdict has not entered into force and can be appealed. The believer insists on his complete innocence. "At liberty or in prison, my worship of God will not stop," Omelchenko said, speaking with last word.

In December 2021, the Court of Cassation upheld the conviction against Murmansk residents Roman Markin and Viktor Trofimov for reading the Bible and praying to Jehovah God. Four more believers in the Murmansk region are defending in court their right to practice the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses, which is not prohibited by law.

Case of Omelchenko in Murmansk

Case history
At the end of December 2019, law enforcement officers in Murmansk raided the homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Investigative Committee initiated a criminal case against Vitaliy Omelchenko for organizing the activities of an extremist organization merely because he said prayers and conducted worship services. A month later, the security forces detained the believer near his house and sent him to a temporary detention center; two days later the court released him but imposed a ban on certain actions. In early 2021, the case went to court. The prosecution appointed as experts Tarasov, Kotelnikov and Kryukova, who are known for their prejudiced attitude towards Jehovah’s Witnesses. In September 2022, the prosecutor requested six years in a general regime penal colony for the believer, but the court sentenced him to a fine of 580,000 rubles. The appellate court upheld that verdict.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Murmansk Region
Locality:
Murmansk
Suspected of:
"organized in residential premises, as well as in other places, the activities of a local religious organization by holding meetings ... personal ascension of sermons... involvement of new persons, as well as other actions of an organizational nature"
Court case number:
11902470002000277
Initiated:
December 23, 2019
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigating:
СО СУ СК России по Мурманской области
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
1-11/2022 (1-83/2021)
Court:
Октябрьский районный суд г. Мурманска
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Роман Гирич
Background