Unjust Verdicts

An Appeal in Vladivostok Upheld the Conviction of Galina Kobeleva. The 66-year-old Believer Was Given a 6-Year Suspended Sentence

Primorye Territory

On December 21, 2022, the Primorye Territory Court partially granted the appeal of Galina Kobeleva, freeing her from paying court costs. The verdict—6-year suspended sentence—entered into force, but can be appealed to the court of cassation.

Two months earlier, the Lesozavodsky District Court found Kobeleva guilty of organizing the activity of an extremist organization. “The court unreasonably considered it a crime that I peacefully practised the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses together with other persons,” the believer explained in her appeal.

Galina insists on her complete innocence. At the appeal hearing, she stated: “In my statements in the court of first instance, I repeatedly mentioned that the prosecution confuses the exercise of my rights as a believer with the activity of a local religious organization. In fact, I was condemned because I am a Jehovah's Witness, that I go to people and talk about the importance of knowing both the actual name of God and who is behind it”.

The Primorye Territory Court had earlier approved the convictions of 14 Jehovah's Witnesses. Another 6 cases against 23 believers are pending in the district courts of Primorye Territory.

The European Court has condemned the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia. In the decision it was reiterated that “in order to fulfill their duty to protect the right to freedom of religion in democratic societies in which several religions coexist within the same population, States have an obligation, in a neutral and impartial manner, to ensure the practice of different religions, beliefs and convictions” (§185).

Case of Kobeleva in Lesozavodsk

Case history
In May 2020, in Lesozavodsk, officers of the Investigative Committee and the FSB conducted searches in 4 dwellings of believers, including Galina Kobeleva. Law enforcement officers opened a criminal case against Yevgeniy Grinenko. Soon Galina and her son Sergey became his defendants. The woman was included in the list of terrorists and extremists of Rosfinmonitoring. The accusation was based on the testimony of an embedded FSB agent Vladislav Mrachko, who communicated with Kobeleva, pretending to be interested in the Bible. In March 2021, the case of the believer was separated into separate proceedings in connection with her serious illness, and 7 months later it went to court. Despite the fact that the testimonies of 20 witnesses did not confirm the charges, and the examination was biased, in October 2022, the court found Galina guilty and sentenced her to 6 years of probation, which is exactly the punishment the prosecutor requested. The appellate court upheld the verdict.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Primorye Territory
Locality:
Lesozavodsk
Suspected of:
According to the investigation, "assisted E. A. Grinenko in organizing meetings of the LRO of Jehovah's Witnesses in Lesozavodsk, acted as a coordinator."
Court case number:
12102050013000012
Initiated:
May 12, 2020
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigating:
SO in Lesozavodsk, Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation in Primorsky Krai
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
1-60/2022 (1-375/2021)
Court of First Instance:
Лесозаводский районный суд Приморского края
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Сергей Галаюда
Background