Aleksandr and Yulia Kalistratova near the court house. February, 2023

Unjust Verdicts

The Cassation Did Not Change the Sentence to Aleksandr Kalistratov. He Will Continue to Serve a 6.5-Year Suspended Sentence for Believing in Jehovah God


On October 31, 2023, the Eighth Court of Cassation of General Jurisdiction in Kemerovo upheld the sentence for faith of 47-year-old Aleksandr Kalistratov — 6.5 years of suspended sentence.

Earlier, in 2010, the Supreme Court of the Altai Republic fully acquitted Kalistratov under Article 282 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. In April 2023, the same court upheld the conviction for peaceful conversations about God. The believer continued to defend his innocence. In his cassation appeal, he stated: "My motive was not extremist motives, but the intention to exercise the right to profess and spread the faith in the ways specific to Jehovah's Witnesses."

The defense believes that these judicial acts were issued in violation of the law, as well as international treaties of the Russian Federation. The defendant emphasized: "At the time of initiation of the case against me, the investigation did not have information about a single action that could be considered a crime. Accordingly, the investigation had no grounds for initiating a criminal case."

Kalistratov also pointed out that the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation did not prohibit either the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses or the methods of its confession. "Accordingly," continued Aleksandr, "the followers of this religion were not required to renounce their faith, or to abandon the external forms of its expression ... (holding joint worship services, spreading doctrine or meeting with fellow believers)."

The European Court of Human Rights has emphasized that "legal formalities should not be used to impede the freedom of association of groups disliked by the authorities or advocating ideas that the authorities would like to suppress" (§ 243).

The case of Kalistratov in Gorno-Altaisk

Case history
For the third time, Aleksandr Kalistratov faced criminal prosecution because of his faith. In 2000, for refusing to take up arms, he was arrested and placed in a pre-trial detention center for 21 days. However, he was later acquitted by the court with the right to rehabilitation. In 2010, for his beliefs, Aleksandr again found himself in the dock on charges of extremism. Within 1.5 years, his case was considered twice. As a result, the first conviction of a Jehovah’s Witness was passed under Article 282 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. As a result, the believer managed to defend his honest name: the Supreme Court of the Altai Republic found Kalistratov innocent with the right to rehabilitation. But in December 2021, he again became a defendant in a criminal case under the same extremist article. Kalistratov’s house was searched, after which the believer was ordered not to leave the place. In February 2023, the court sentenced Aleksandr to 6.5 years probation. The appellate court and the court of cassation upheld this verdict.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Suspected of:
convened meetings, "for the purpose of secrecy, determined the places and methods of holding them through software for video calls through the information and telecommunication network "Internet"" (from the decision to bring as an accused)
Court case number:
December 16, 2021
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Altai Republic
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
1-22/2023 (1-471/2022)
Court of First Instance:
Горно-Алтайский городской суд Республики Алтай
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Наталья Соколова