Unjust Verdicts

Court in Sovetskaya Gavan Sentenced One of Jehovah's Witnesses, Aleksey Ukhov, to 6.5 Years Imprisonment for Reading the Bible

Khabarovsk Territory

On March 27, 2023, Victoriya Anokhina, judge of the Sovetskaya Gavan City Court of the Khabarovsk Territory, sentenced Aleksey Ukhov to 6.5 years in a penal colony for believing in Jehovah God. He was taken into custody in the courtroom.

The verdict has not entered into force and can be appealed. The believer insists on his complete innocence. “I want to maintain my reputation as a person worthy of respect, who keeps his word, and also values the honor of being one of Jehovah's Witnesses. This is very important for me,” said Aleksey Ukhov, addressing the court in his final statement.

The FSB initiated a criminal case in the fall of 2020. A search was conducted in the Ukhovs' house and Aleksey was arrested. He said: “I spent 8.5 months in a detention center, and this trial has been going on for more than 1.5 years. I'm labeled as an extremist." The investigation found the believer guilty of “performing actions aimed at reading prayers... studying and quoting texts of the Holy Scriptures... and the book of Psalms.” Aleksey Ukhov was added to the Rosfinmonitoring list of extremists and his bank accounts were blocked.

During his pre-trial detention, the investigator did not allow Aleksey to see his wife, giving as the reason that she was a witness for the prosecution. For 3 months they were unlawfully denied the right to correspond. The couple saw each other only 6 months later. Moreover, Ukhov was deprived of quality legal assistance because his lawyers were changed 12 times. Alexey told how his fellow believers supported him all this time: “Letters came from all over the world from many brothers and sisters. Of course, it’s one thing to know that many people are praying for you, another thing is when you literally “hear” them when you receive letter after letter, and there are hundreds and hundreds of them”.

Since August 2021, the case has been under consideration in court. Witnesses, whose testimonies the investigation took as the basis for the prosecution, stated that the protocols of their interrogations were falsified. The interrogated secret witness "Surikov", according to Aleksey, "spoke an outright lie, no one can confirm his testimony". Other witnesses noted that they had never heard calls for extremism from Ukhov. His manager described the believer as a diligent worker who can always be relied upon.

As part of the case, six expert studies were carried out: phonographic, psycholinguistic, psychological, sociopolitical and two religious. “I would like to draw the court's attention to the fact that the conclusions of all the expert studies do not confirm that I encouraged anyone to carry out extremist activity.” At the same time, as the defense emphasized, all the conclusions were drawn up with gross violations of legislative norms. Despite this, the prosecutor requested a sentence of 7 years in a penal colony for Aleksey Ukhov.

The Khabarovsk Territory ranks second in terms of the number of Jehovah's Witnesses who have become defendants in criminal cases for their beliefs. To date, 30 people have become victims of repression, 11 of whom were sentenced to various suspended sentences and fines, 4 have already served their sentences.

The European Court of Human Rights reiterated that “to discharge their duty to uphold the right
to freedom of religion in democratic societies... States have responsibility for ensuring, neutrally and impartially, the exercise of various religions, faiths and beliefs” (§ 185).

The Case of Ukhov in Sovetskaya Gavan

Case history
In October 2020, a 5-hour search took place in the house of the Ukhovs — graphic artist Aleksey and X-ray technician Liliya — after which Aleksey was detained and five days later sent 540 kilometers from home to Khabarovsk SIZO No. 1 for a forced psychiatric examination. The reason for treating a peaceful believer from Sovetskaya Gavan like this, was that the day before an FSB investigator had initiated a criminal case against Ukhov under an article for extremism. According to the investigation, he “performed actions aimed at reading prayers… studying and citing texts of the Holy Scriptures… and the Psalms.” While behind bars, Aleksey was illegally deprived of letters of support from relatives and friends for about 3 months. In July 2021, Aleksey was released from the detention center under a recognizance agreement, and in August the case went to court. In March 2023, the believer was sentenced to 6.5 years in a penal colony. However, in July, the court of appeal replaced the actual imprisonment with a suspended one for the same duration.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Khabarovsk Territory
Locality:
Sovetskaya Gavan
Suspected of:
"performed actions aimed at reading prayers ... studying and quoting the texts of the Holy Scriptures ... and psalm songs"
Court case number:
12007080001000073
Initiated:
October 21, 2020
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigating:
Khabarovsk Territory Directorate of the Federal Security Service of Russia
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
1-207/2021
Court:
Советско-Гаванский городской суд Хабаровского края
Judge:
Виктория Анохина
Background