Legal Victories

An Appeal in Krasnoyarsk Overturned the Judgment Against Aleksandr Kabanov. The Court Found That His Guilt Was Not Established

Krasnoyarsk Territory

On December 27, 2022, a panel of judges of the Krasnoyarsk Regional Court overturned the judgment that was rendered against Aleksandr Kabanov because of his faith and returned the case to the prosecutor's office. Earlier, the Zelenogorsk City Court gave the believer a two-year suspended sentence for reading the Bible, but the appellate court considered Kabanov's guilt unproven.

In his appeal, the believer pointed out that his actions were exclusively peaceful in nature, namely "professing the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses, an essential part of which is the study of the Bible, including with other believers". Aleksandr believes that the goal of the guilty verdict is "to use the fear of criminal responsibility to deprive him of the opportunity to practice his religion". In addition, the prosecution acknowledged the absence of victims, and the judgment did not reflect any real consequences of Kabanov's actions.

The persecution of Aleksandr Kabanov began in December 2019, when he was detained at his workplace, his apartment was searched, and he was taken to a temporary holding facility. “Faith in God helped me not to worry too much . . . Words of encouragement from fellow believers helped me not to lose heart,” the believer later said.

Currently, 28 believers in the Krasnoyarsk Territory have faced persecution by the authorities. Three of them—Andrey Stupnikov, Anatoliy Gorbunov and Yevgeniy Zinich—were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment in general regime penal colonies for talking to people about God.

The ECHR judgment dated June 7, 2022, which fully justified Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, points out: “States do not have the right under the Convention to decide what beliefs may or may not be taught because the right to freedom of religion as guaranteed under the Convention excludes any discretion on the part of the State to determine whether religious beliefs or the means used to express such beliefs are legitimate” (§ 165).

The case of Kabanov in Zelenogorsk

Case history
Siberian Aleksandr Kabanov faced criminal prosecution for believing in God at the end of December 2019. Then a series of searches took place in the homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Zelenogorsk. The believer spent a day behind bars, after which he was released. He was accused of “holding weekly religious meetings, distributing religious . . . the organization’s attitudes and the involvement of new adherents”, which the investigator of the Investigative Committee equated with participation in the activities of an extremist organization. In February 2021, the case went to the city court. In December of the same year, instead of announcing the verdict, the judge returned the case to the stage of judicial investigation. In August 2022, Aleksandr Kabanov was convicted of 2 years suspended, but the appeal returned the case to the prosecutor. In June 2023, the case was again submitted to the court of first instance. In January 2024, the prosecution requested 2 years and 6 months in prison for the believer, but the court returned the case to the prosecutor again.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Krasnoyarsk Territory
Locality:
Zelenogorsk
Suspected of:
According to investigators, he "organized ... the activities of 24 groups of members of the banned organization and supervised their activities during weekly religious meetings, the dissemination of religious and ideological attitudes of the banned organization, as well as the involvement of new adherents"
Court case number:
11902040011000051
Initiated:
December 26, 2019
Current case stage:
Case returned to prosecutor
Investigating:
Joint Investigative Directorate for the Closed Administrative District of Zelenogorsk of the Main Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of Russia for the Krasnoyarsk Territory and the Republic of Khakassia
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (2)
Court case number:
1-4/2024 (1-129/2023; 1-1/2022; 1-67/2021)
Court:
Зеленогорский городской суд Красноярского края
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Доронин Станислав
Background