In the photo: Andrzej Oniszczuk, Andrey Suvorkov, Vladimir Korobeynikov, Evgeny Suvorkov, Vladimir Vasilyev and Maxim Khalturin

Unjust Verdicts

Appeal in Kirov Upheld the Verdict Against 6 of Jehovah's Witnesses

Kirov Region

On October 4, 2022, the Kirov Regional Court, chaired by Aleksandr Kulguskin, denied the appeal of six local believers. The verdict of the first instance — 2.5 to 6.5 years of suspended imprisonment — came into force.

Andrzej Oniszczuk, Yevgeniy and Andrey Suvorkov, Maksim Khalturin, Vladimir Korobeynikov and Vladimir Vasilyev insist on their innocence because they practiced their religion legally. They have the right to appeal the verdict in cassation.

Speaking with his last word in the Court of Appeal, Andrzej Oniszczuk noted that he had been a Jehovah's Witness for more than 30 years and lived according to Biblical principles. He said: "As a believer, I never even thought about extremism ... Inner convictions do not allow me to oppose the state system." Vladimir Vasilyev also noted: “I profess religious views that are not prohibited by law. I have never had anything to do with extremism."

Vladimir Korobeynikov said: “I love my family very much and take care of them. My wife and daughter, who lives with us, have disability of I and II degree. My relations with neighbors are friendly, and they know me as a person who is always ready to help. There is also a characteristic in the case file confirming this. Do extremists have such qualities?”

Maksim Khalturin emphasized: “My parents, due to their age and illnesses, depend on my help, which is unrealistic for social services to provide. They have no other relatives who can help them. Therefore, if I am deprived of their liberty, they will be put on the brink of survival and will not last long.”

The peace-loving views of Andrey and Yevgeniy Suvorkov (stepson and stepfather) had prompted them to do alternative civilian service instead of military service, but in court they were forced to prove that they were not extremists.

Earlier, four other of Jehovah's Witnesses from Kirov were convicted. For practicing their peaceful religion, they received fines ranging from 200 to 500 thousand rubles.

Despite the fact that the Plenum of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation issued a ruling in defense of the rights of Jehovah's Witnesses to hold worship services and joint religious rites and ceremonies, the persecution of believers in the country does not stop.

Case of Oniszczuk and Others in Kirov

Case history
In October 2018, searches of believers were carried out in Kirov. A criminal case under extremist articles was initiated against seven local residents, five of them were taken into custody, including Polish citizen Andrzej Oniszczuk, who had been in captivity for almost a year. His fellow believers spent 3 to 11 months in jail and another 6 to 9 months under house arrest. The men were included in the Rosfinmonitoring list. One of the accused, Yuriy Geraskov, died of a long illness a week before the trial. In January 2021, court hearings began. In June 2022, the believers were given suspended sentences ranging from 2.5 to 6.5 years. Yuriy Geraskov was also found guilty of extremism, but the criminal case was dismissed due to his death. The appellate court upheld the verdict against the believers.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Kirov Region
Locality:
Kirov
Suspected of:
according to the investigation, “they organised meetings of followers and participants of the association [Jehovah’s Witnesses] in different flats, performing actions characteristic of this association: singing Bible songs together, improving skills for missionary activity, as well as studying religious literature, the so-called ‘Holy Scriptures’ (Bible), which is on the Federal List of Extremist Materials and contains the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses”.
Court case number:
11802330022000044
Initiated:
October 3, 2018
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigating:
Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Kirov Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1), 282.3 (1), 282.2 (2)
Court case number:
1-2/2022 (1-5/2021; 1-123/2020)
Court of First Instance:
Первомайский районный суд Кирова
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Тимур Юсупов
Background