The Court of Appeal in Chelyabinsk Upheld the Guilty Verdict Against Believer Vadim Gizatulin. His Case Contains No Evidence of Extremist ActivityChelyabinsk Region
On February 6, 2023, the Chelyabinsk Regional Court upheld the sentence for 54-year-old Vadim Gizatulin: 2 years of suspended imprisonment. The verdict has entered into force, but the believer has the right to appeal against it in the cassation process.
Vadim insists on his innocence and considers the accusation groundless: “I have never denied that I am one of Jehovah's Witnesses. But I never belonged to any of the organizations liquidated by the Supreme Court. I did not participate in the continuation of the activity of an extremist organization, but in the religious services of believers, which were not banned by the court.”
Moreover, not a single piece of evidence of the believer's guilt in actions of an extremist nature was presented in court. “It is not clear which passages from my speech exactly and on what grounds they were considered by the prosecution as extremist,” emphasizes Vadim.
In his final statement in the court of appeal, the believer stated that he had done nothing wrong against the state and its citizens. He believes that he is being tried only for his religious beliefs. “I saw how evil and cruel people became kind and humble,” he said at the hearings. “I have seen some families falling apart and thanks to the Bible they have been able to stay together. And today I am not being judged because I have done something bad, but because I am one of Jehovah's Witnesses and because I faithfully serve my God.”
Due to the stress suffered during the search, the chronic illnesses of Vadim's wife were aggravated, and soon she even ended up in intensive care. Vadim himself lost his job, the only source of income for the family.
In June 2022, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the prosecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia is illegal: “Only religious statements and actions involving or calling for violence, hatred or discrimination may warrant suppression as being ‘extremist’.” (§271) Despite the lack of such grounds, courts in Russia continue to prosecute Jehovah's Witnesses throughout the country.