The Court of Appeal in Chelyabinsk Upheld the Sentence of Pavel PopovChelyabinsk Region
On August 18, 2022, a panel of judges of the Chelyabinsk Regional Court, chaired by Andrey Averkin, upheld the verdict against Pavel Popov — a 6-year suspended sentence. The believer continues to insist on his innocence and has the right to appeal this decision in the cassation procedure.
On May 25, 2022, Mariya Melnikova, judge of the Metallurgichesky District Court of Chelyabinsk, found Pavel guilty of organizing the activity of an extremist organization. According to the believer, the charges against him were based on the testimony of agent Ruzaeva, who only told the court that she had heard his voice at the meeting for worship. Based on the facts presented in court, Popov concludes: “Evidence was considered in the court of first instance. This evidence does not prove any criminal activity by me, but only my faith in God. I did not commit any extremist actions”.
Despite all the hardships associated with the trial and the unlawfulness of the accusations against him, Pavel tries not to lose strength and optimism. He said, “Friends stay until the end of the process and then they chat and give me support. Every time they give me and my family some gifts. All this is very encouraging and gives extra strength.” The believer is especially grateful for the support of his wife and daughter, who also courageously cope with the trials that have befallen them.
In recent years, 13 Jehovah's Witnesses have been prosecuted for their religious beliefs in the Chelyabinsk Region, 10 of whom have already been given various suspended sentences and fines.
The global human rights community considers the prosecution of Jehovah's Witnesses unlawful. In particular the European Court of Human Rights has stated: “Article 9 [of the European Convention] protects the right of believers to meet peacefully in order to worship in the manner prescribed by their religion” (§267).