In Vyazemskiy, the Court Gave Sergey Kuznetsov a 2 Years and 5 Months Suspended Sentence for His Peaceful BeliefsKhabarovsk Territory
On December 22, 2022, Ksenia Ostanina, a judge of the Vyazemskiy District Court of the Khabarovsk Territory, imposed a suspended prison senctence of 2 years and 5 months on 31-year-old Sergey Kuznetsov, with a probationary period of 2 years for participating in the activity of an extremist organization, basically, for his religion.
"I believe that calling me an extremist is a big mistake, as hatred towards people is something alien to Jehovah's Witnesses because they follow the commandments of Jesus Christ to love people," the believer stressed , addressing the court in his final statement.
Persecution of Sergey Kuznetsov for his faith began in September 2020 - his house was searched. This happened four months after the search in the home of his relative, Yegor Baranov. In March 2021 criminal proceedings under Part 2 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation were initiated against Sergey; a repeat search was conducted at his home, and the believer was added to the Rosfinmonitoring's list of extremists. The investigation, which lasted six months, was led by D. S. Pozdnyakov, senior criminal investigator with the Khabarovsk Region branch of the FSB.
In the fall of 2021, the criminal case went to court. None of the witnesses could confirm that the believer committed the crime, and one woman confessed that during the interrogation the investigator put pressure on her. There were no victims in the case, but that did not stop the prosecutor from requesting that Kuznetsov be sentenced to three years in a penal colony and one year of restricted freedom.
The verdict has not entered into force and can be appealed. The believer insists on his complete innocence.
The case against another Witness of Jehovah from Vyazemsky is being considered by another court in the Khabarovsk Region: 69-year-old Aleksandr Shutov is also accused of participation in the activity of an extremist organization.
In a ruling dated June 7, 2022, the European Court of Human Rights called the criminal prosecution of believers in Russia unlawful: “The forced liquidation of all religious organizations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Russian Federation… revealed signs of a policy of intolerance on the part of the Russian authorities aimed at forcing Jehovah's Witnesses to renounce their faith and prevent others from joining it” (§ 254).