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