The Court of the City of Kazan Sent Sergey Gromov to a Penal Colony for Six Years for Conducting Religious MeetingsTatarstan
On September 14, 2023, the examination of the case of Jehovah's Witness, Sergey Gromov, was completed in the Moskovskiy District Court of the city of Kazan. Judge Alsu Gumirova found him guilty of extremism and sentenced him to six years and one month of imprisonment for peacefully practicing his faith.
Gromov's guilt, according to the investigation, is that he "conducted religious meetings" at home. Although, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation ruled that worship services in themselves are not a crime, the investigator, followed by the judge, equated holding such meetings with organizing the activities of an extremist organization. The prosecutor asked to sentence Sergey to eight years in prison. The believer considers himself innocent and can appeal the verdict.
Gromov was detained along with his wife in March of 2022 at Moscow's Vnukovo airport. It also turned out that the day before an FSB investigator had initiated a criminal case against him under Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. Then the Gromovs' apartment in the city of Kazan was searched. Since March 17, 2022, Sergey has been in a pre-trial detention center. Over time, he was also accused of financing the activities of an extremist organization.
According to the believer, the testimonies of secret witnesses which this case is based upon are false. The defense is sure that hiding behind pseudonyms are FSB officer Mikhail Vasilyev and Aleksandr Komzolov, who show a negative attitude towards Jehovah's Witnesses. Gromov explained at one of the court hearings that he had not been in contact with Komzolov since 2014, which meant that he could not know anything about his religious life since that time. The judge overuled the lawyer's questions aimed at identifying contradictions. The second witness, according to the defendant, reported "non-existent facts" about their acquaintance. The court did not try to establish whether there was a slander on the part of prosecution witnesses.
In total, 13 Jehovah's Witnesses have already been prosecuted in the Republic of Tatarstan. Eleven of them were convicted for their faith, Konstantin Sannikov received six and a half years in prison. Human rights activists oppose this position of law enforcement officers and call on Russia to stop the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses.