Ivan Shulyuk in front of the Nazarovsky City Court of the Krasnoyarsk Territory, May 2023.
Seven-Year Suspended Sentence for Reading the Bible with Friends. Court Sentences Ivan Shulyuk, One of Jehovah's Witnesses from NazarovoKrasnoyarsk Territory
On May 10, 2023, Lev Afanasyev, judge of the Nazarovsky City Court of the Krasnoyarsk Territory, gave Ivan Shulyuk a 7-year suspended sentence with 4-year probation. The court deemed discussing the Bible, praying and singing religious songs among friends as organizing the activity of an extremist organization.
The prosecution of Ivan Shulyuk for his faith began on June 18, 2020, when law enforcement officers raided the homes of Jehovah's Witnesses in Nazarovo. He said: “I was subjected to a degrading procedure of search, arrest and confinement in a detention center. I was repeatedly transported in a tiny metal chamber within the prison van in the heat, kept and moved about in handcuffs, although I do not pose any threat to society. My personal data was added to the Rosfinmonitoring list, and I was put among those involved in terrorism and extremism, which is an outrageous injustice”. According to Ivan, the month he spent in the detention center was not an easy one, but faith in God, prayer, letters, parcels with food and flowers from friends and fellow believers, as well as the support of his wife Yuliya, helped him cope with the difficulties.
The investigation lasted a year and two months; it was conducted by the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee for the Nazarovsky District of the Krasnoyarsk Territory and the Republic of Khakassia. The case went to court in August 2021. In his final statement, Shulyuk said: “In the indictment against me, it is written in bold letters: ‘no information on victims, nature or extent of harm.’ It is logical that if there is no such information, if there is no evidence, then there is no guilt. This is not a search for my non-existent crime, but a deliberate discrimination and prosecution of me on religious grounds.” Witnesses in their testimonies confirmed that they had not heard calls for extremism from Shulyuk.
Ivan is not the first of his family to face repression for his faith. In 1942, his grandfather was shot down for being one of Jehovah's Witnesses and buried in a mass grave. In 1997 he was rehabilitated posthumously. Ivan mentioned this story at one of the hearings. “Having rehabilitated my relatives, the authorities confirmed that they were wrong at the time. So why repeat history?” the believer asked. Shulyuk has the right to defend his innocence in the court of appeal.
In the Krasnoyarsk Territory, three peaceful believers are already serving terms in a penal colony for reading the Bible: Anatoliy Gorbunov, Yevgeniy Zinich and Andrey Stupnikov. In total, law enforcement officers have initiated criminal cases against 30 Jehovah's Witnesses from this region. The persecution continues despite the decision of the Plenum of the Supreme Court, as well as the decision of the European Court of Human Rights of June 7, 2022, which fully exonerated Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia.