Unjust Verdicts

The Court of Cassation Upheld the Decisions of the Lower Courts Regarding Five Believers from the City of Blagoveshchensk

Amur Region

On September 26, a panel of judges of the Ninth Court of Cassation of General Jurisdiction in Vladivostok upheld the verdict of Sergey Afanasiyev, Anton Olshevskiy, Sergey Kardakov, Adam Svarichevskiy and Sergey Yermilov. Each of them received more than six years in a penal colony for their faith.

It was noted in one of the court of cassation's appeals, that "Even in Soviet times, during the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses, believers were not always sentenced to imprisonment, especially for such a long period as in the present case".

All five of the believers from Blagoveshchensk have pleaded not guilty and believe that what they are being persecuted for is not for any crime, but for practicing the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses. In support of this, the believers point out that law enforcement agencies have not established a single fact pointing to their engagement in illegal activities.

All of this runs Non-breaking spacecontarary tothe decisionk up: a of the Plenum of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, which states that "actions consisting solely in the exercise of their right to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion ... by themselves, if they do not contain signs of extremism, do not constitute a crime."

Case of Olshevskiy and others in Blagoveshchensk

Case history
In July 2018, searches were carried out at 7 addresses in Blagoveshchensk as part of a criminal case against local believers. A little over a year later, Obukhov, an investigator of the FSB Directorate for the Amur Region, opened a criminal case against Anton Olshevskiy and Sergey Yermilov on suspicion of participating in extremist activities. In September 2020, Adam Svarichevsky, Sergey Afanasyev and Sergey Kardakov also became defendants in this case (his house was searched). In March 2021, the charges against believers were changed: all five were accused of organizing the activities of an extremist organization, and Afanasyev was also accused of financing it. In September 2021, the case of the believers went to court. A year and two months later, the court found the believers guilty of extremism and sentenced Afanasiyev to 6.5 years, Kardakov to 6 years and 4 months, and Yermilov, Olshevsky and Svarichevsky to 6 years and 3 months in prison. The appeal and cassation upheld the verdict.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Amur Region
Locality:
Blagoveshchensk
Suspected of:
According to the investigation he took part in activities of the liquidated organization through direct involvement in religious activities (with reference to the decision of the Russian Federation Supreme Court to liquidate all 396 registered organizations of Jehovah’s Witnesses)
Court case number:
11907100001000062
Initiated:
October 21, 2019
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigating:
Investigation Office of Russian Federal Security Office for Amur region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1), 282.3 (1)
Court case number:
1-135/2022 (1-1408/2021)
Court:
Благовещенский городской суд Амурской области
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Дарья Варкалевич
Background