Dmytro Tishchenko, Serhiy Korolchuk and Anton Chermnykh outside the courthouse. November 2022

Unjust Verdicts

In Primorye, the court refused to acquit three Jehovah's Witnesses from Ussuriysk. The sentence to 6 years conditionally entered into force

Primorye Territory

On May 18, 2023, the Primorsky Regional Court refused to grant the appeal of Sergey Korolchuk, Anton Chermnykh and Dmitry Tishchenko against a guilty verdict that imposed a six-year suspended sentence. The decision has entered into force, but the believers have the right to appeal it in the cassation court.

The court considered the following to be evidence of extremist activity: the defendants continued to “follow the teachings” of Jehovah’s Witnesses by participating in worship services, “listening to sermons," and “performing religious songs.” As noted in the appeal, these actions are not prohibited by the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation as socially dangerous acts but are guaranteed by the Constitution of the Russian Federation as fundamental human rights and freedoms.

A friendly meeting of fellow believers in a cafe was construed by law enforcement officers as “actions to organize the recruitment of new members, intended to continue the illegal activities of a banned religious organization.” In 2019, a criminal case was initiated against Korolchuk, Chermnykh and Tishchenko, and searches were conducted. Later, all three defendants signed a recognizance agreement, which lasted almost three years. Rosfinmonitoring blocked their bank accounts.

On November 30, 2022, Judge Dmitry Babushkin of the Ussuriysk District Court of the Primorsky Territory sentenced Sergey Korolchuk, Anton Chermnykh, and Dmitriy Tishchenko to a six-year suspended sentence with a four-year probationary period and one year of restriction of freedom.

In their submission to the appellate court, the believers stated that as a result of a miscarriage of justice, they were convicted merely for peacefully professing beliefs based on the Bible. They confirmed their intention to defend their innocence. Dmitriy Tishchenko observed: “Neither the investigator nor the public prosecutor said what harm or damage I caused to the State or which of my words or deeds incited hatred between people. Not a single person has ever come to court to claim that they have been harmed by my actions.” Sergey Korolchuk explained: “The only motive for all my actions was love for God and neighbor. This has nothing to do with extremism, which I am being accused of.” Anton Chermnykh emphasized: “There is no need for permission to believe in God in Russia!”

In Primorye, 57 of Jehovah's Witnesses have been prosecuted for their faith, twenty five of which have already been sentenced to various punishments, and 16 are defending their right to worship in court. Fourteen believers are serving suspended sentences.

The court in the city of Ussuriysk ignored the clarification of the Plenum of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, which emphasized that the liquidation of legal entities of Jehovah's Witnesses does not impose a ban on their worship.

Case of Korolchuk in Ussuriysk

Case history
In June 2019 in the city of Ussuriysk, searches were conducted in the homes of peaceful citizens Sergey Korolchuk and Dmitriy Tishchenko. The searches were conducted because of a criminal case under Article 282.2(1) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation initiated by E. Marvanyuk, the investigator of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Primorsky Territory. The third defendant was Anton Chermnykh, the father of a young child. The case was based on the testimony of FSB officer K. Rusakov, who for about a year followed the believers and listened in on Tishchenko’s telephone conversations. In the opinion of the investigation, by meeting friends in a cafe to discuss the Bible, the men committed “a crime against the foundations of the constitutional order and the security of the State.” The believers were under house arrest for almost three years. In September 2020 Judge Dmitry Babushkin began considering the case in the Ussuriysky District Court. The defense emphasized that the key witness gave false testimony, and expert Oleshkevich made a biased and incompetent conclusion. On November 30, 2022, the judge found the believers guilty and gave them six-year suspended prison sentences, and in May 2023 the appellate court upheld this decision.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Primorye Territory
Locality:
Ussuriysk
Suspected of:
According to the investigation he “took steps to organize the recruitment of new members aimed at continuing the illegal activities of the banned religious organization ‘Jehovah's Witnesses Administrative Center in Russia’” (with reference to the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation on the liquidation of the religious organization “Jehovah's Witnesses Administrative Center in Russia” and its structural divisions)
Court case number:
11902050012000027
Initiated:
June 18, 2019
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigating:
Investigation Department for Ussuriysk city of the Investigation Administration of the IC of Russia for Primorye Territory
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
1-9/2022 (1-57/2021; 1-659/2020)
Court:
Уссурийский районный суд Приморского края
Judge:
Дмитрий Бабушкин
Background