Unjust Verdicts

The Court of Appeal in Chelyabinsk Upheld the Guilty Verdict Against Believer Vadim Gizatulin. His Case Contains No Evidence of Extremist Activity

Chelyabinsk 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.

The case of Gizatulin in Chelyabinsk

Case history
Vadim Gizatulin faced persecution for his faith in 2019: his house was searched as part of the Vladimir Suvorov case. Hidden audio and video filming was carried out behind the believers. A certain Ruzayeva, under the guise of a person interested in the Bible, collected information for the Center “E”. In 2021, the Investigative Committee opened a criminal case against Vadim Gizatulin, an electrician from Chelyabinsk. His house was searched again. The investigation considered it illegal actions that he participated in worship services, singing songs and saying prayers. In August 2022, Gizatulin’s case went to court. In December of the same year, the court sentenced the believer to 2 years of probation, and in February 2023, the court of appeal upheld this decision.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Chelyabinsk Region
Locality:
Chelyabinsk
Suspected of:
participated in worship services of Jehovah's Witnesses, sang religious songs and prayed to Jehovah God
Court case number:
12202750030000019
Initiated:
August 31, 2021
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigating:
Third Department for the Investigation of Particularly Important Cases of the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Chelyabinsk Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (2)
Court case number:
1-494/2022
Court of First Instance:
Металлургический районный суд города Челябинска
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Виталий Сиротин
Background