The court announces the verdict to Viktor Shayapov (second from left). November 8, 2022
A Court in Penza Region Sentenced Viktor Shayapov to Two Years Suspended Sentence for Believing in Jehovah GodPenza Region
On November 7, 2022, Nikolay Razdrogin, judge of the Nikolskiy District Court of the Penza Region, sentenced one of Jehovah's Witnesses, 32-year-old Viktor Shayapov, to 2 years' suspended sentence with 8 months' probation. The believer received such punishment for peacefully practicing his religion.
Viktor became a defendant in a criminal case for his faith in October 2020. At that time, a wave of searches took place in Nikolsk at the homes of local Jehovah's Witnesses, including the home of the Shayapov family. In February 2022, Shayapov was detained in the Moscow Region, taken to Penza and placed under house arrest. He spent almost 9 months in isolation from society with a location-tracking device on his leg. The believer was also added to the list of the Federal Financial Monitoring Service of the Russian Federation.
Shayapov was accused of participating in the activity of an extremist organization (Part 2 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). For almost a year and a half, the investigation was carried out by the Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Penza Region. In March 2022, the case went to court. During the 7 months' hearing, the participants of the proceedings examinded at least 15 volumes of case materials.
There were no facts of any extremist actions or appeals presented in them, and the testimonies of witnesses in court differed from the preliminary statements. Nevertheless, the prosecutor demanded that the believer was given a 4 year suspended sentence.
“Let me ask a question which was neither answered by the investigator nor the prosecution”, Viktor Shayapov addressed the court in his final statement, “how could I apply Article 28 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation—exercise my right to profess religion individually and jointly with others—and at the same time not be prosecuted? I simply profess religious views that are not prohibited by law.” The believer insists on his complete innocence. The verdict can be appealed.
The courts of Penza Region had previously convicted eight more Jehovah's Witnesses for their faith, including women over 60 years of age.
Russian and foreign human rights institutions have repeatedly drawn the attention of the Russian authorities to the fact that the criminal prosecution of Jehovah's Witnesses is unlawful. The authorities continue to ignore such statements, and as a result, the number of peaceful believers labeled as extremists is on the rise.