Oleg and Agnessa Postnikov in front of the courthouse

Unjust Verdicts

A Second Appeal in Birobidzhan Upheld the Sentence of the Postnikov Spouses: 4.5 and 5.5 Years of Suspended Term

Jewish Autonomous Area

On October 24, 2023, the court of the Jewish Autonomous Region considered for the second time the complaint of Oleg and Agnessa Postnikov against the conviction for practicing the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses. The verdict was left unchanged: Oleg received 5 and a half years of suspended imprisonment, Agnessa — 4 and a half years suspended with a probationary period of 5 years.

Appealing against the guilty verdict, the believers drew attention to the fact that instead of establishing specific criminal actions and extremist motives, the court of first instance only revealed their religious affiliation, which they did not hide. Oleg Postnikov noted: "The verdict contradicts the Constitution of the Russian Federation, the Criminal Code and the explanations of the Plenum, according to which, after a court decision to liquidate a religious organization, subsequent actions of citizens that are exclusively religious in nature do not constitute a crime." The believers do not admit their guilt and can appeal the verdict in cassation.

This is the second appeal in the case of the Postnikovs. In 2022, the court of first instance sentenced them to 5.5 and 5 years of suspended term, the appeal overturned the verdict and sent the case for a new trial. In the new composition of the court, believers were sentenced to 5.5 and 4.5 years of suspended term.

The criminal prosecution of the Postnikovs began in May 2018. As part of the "Judgment Day" special operation, their house was raided. The charges against the couple were based on the testimony of a police officer and another woman feigning interest in Bible study, in whose house a hidden video camera was installed to record conversations.

According to the ruling of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, "the joint performance of rites and ceremonies [of Jehovah's Witnesses] does not in itself constitute a crime under Article 282.2 Part 2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, despite the liquidation of their legal entities."

Case of the Postnikovs in Birobidzhan

Case history
In May 2018, a special operation of the FSB with the participation of 150 security officials, codenamed “Judgement Day”, took place in Birobidzhan. As a result, at least 20 of Jehovah’s Witnesses became victims of criminal prosecution. Among them were Oleg and Agnessa Postnikov. The FSB accused the spouses of involvement in an extremist organization and participation in its activities. They signed a recognizance not to leave. The case went to court in July 2021. The charges against the believers were based on the testimony of police officer Zvereva and another resident of Birobidzhan, who pretended to be interested in the Bible. In April 2022, the court found the Postnikovs guilty and sentenced Oleg and Agnessa to 5.5 and 5 years of suspended sentence, respectively. The appeal overturned this decision and in October 2022 returned the case for a new trial, which resulted in a sentence of 5.5 and 4.5 years of suspended sentence. The second appeal upheld the verdict. In February 2024, another search took place at the Postnikovs’ home, but as part of a new raid by security forces on the homes of believers.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Jewish Autonomous Area
Locality:
Birobidzhan
Suspected of:
According to the investigation, he "took an active part in conducting religious events for the study and dissemination of ... ideology"
Court case number:
12007990001000009
Initiated:
February 12, 2020
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigating:
UFSB of Russia in the Jewish Autonomous Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (2), 282.2 (1.1)
Court case number:
1-39/2023 (1-718/2022)
Court:
Биробиджанский районный суд ЕАО
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Ольга Ключикова
Background