Darya and Venera Dulov, Alexander Pryanikov

Unjust Verdicts

An Appeal in Yekaterinburg Again Overturned the Conviction of Believers from Karpinsk. The Case Was Returned to the Prosecutor

Sverdlovsk Region

On July 6, 2023, four months after the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation overturned the acquittal of Jehovah’s Witnesses from the city of Karpinsk, the Sverdlovsk Regional Court ruled that the case against Aleksandr Prianikov, Venera Dulova, and her daughter, Darya, be returned to the prosecutor.

The believers insist on their innocence. At the appeal hearing, Venera Dulova said: “I believe this criminal case was fabricated; I consider it religious repression, because my religion is the only reason for the charge.” Her daughter, Darya, added: “I can say in good conscience that I am not guilty of either extremism or participation in the activities of banned religious organizations.”

The investigation's accusations against the three believers come down to conversations about the Bible. Aleksandr Prianikov asked the appellate court: “What is the public danger? Whom have I harmed? It never crossed my mind that a conversation with someone on topics like family happiness, comfort for those who mourn, and a future earthly paradise is so dangerous that it warrants prosecution under serious charges and the threat of being thrown into prison."

The Dulovs and Prianikov have been defending their innocence in court since September 2019. The Sverdlovsk Regional Court twice overturned convictions against the believers. The cassation court also took their side. However, the prosecutor's office appealed these decisions to the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, which, contrary to its own explanations at the Plenum in 2021, overturned the acquittal.

The European Commission for Democracy through Law warned the Russian Federation back in 2012 that the anti-extremism law “on account of its broad and imprecise wording ... provides too wide discretion ... thus leading to arbitrariness” and that it carries “potential dangers to individuals.” 10 years later, the ECHR condemned the actions of the Russian authorities in relation to Jehovah's Witnesses, pointing out that a large-scale repressive campaign was launched against the followers of this religion.

Case of Prianikov and Others in Karpinsk

Case history
In June 2018, Venera Dulova and Aleksandr Pryanikov were detained for talking about the Bible. A criminal case was opened against them under an extremist article. A year later, Daria Dulova became the third defendant in the case. In January 2020, they were sentenced to suspended sentences ranging from 1 year to 2.5 years. An appeal in Yekaterinburg overturned the verdict and returned the case to the court of first instance. This time, the prosecutor requested a more severe punishment, but the court duplicated the first verdict. In March 2022, the appellate court again overturned the verdict, acquitting the believers. The cassation court did not change this decision. However, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation overturned it in March 2023 and returned the case to the appeal stage, which returned the case to the prosecutor’s office, after which the cassation sent it for a new appeal hearing. A fourth appellate decision upheld the convictions of Aleksandr and Venera. Daria is exempt from criminal liability, as the statute of limitations has expired. All three believers are defendants in another criminal case for their faith.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Sverdlovsk Region
Locality:
Karpinsk
Suspected of:
"Within the jurisdiction of the city of Karpinsk... together with a group of people, being fully aware that the religious organization Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia was declared extremist and its activities in the Russian Federation were prohibited, [he] participated in its activities by directly taking part in events, carrying out propaganda of its activities, familiarizing with religious literature."
Court case number:
11802650042000038
Initiated:
July 30, 2018
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigating:
СО в г. Краснотурьинске СУ Следственного комитета РФ по Свердловской области
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (2)
Court case number:
1-11/2021 (1-184/2020; 1-5/2020; 1-167/2019)
Court:
Карпинский городской суд Свердловской области
Background