Tatyana Sushilnikova in the courtroom. November, 2023.

Unjust Verdicts

The Court Sentenced a Pensioner, Tatyana Sushilnikova, to 4 Years Suspended. "I'm on Trial Simply for Worshipping to God"

Kemerovo Region

On November 15, 2023, the Kuznetskiy District Court finalized its hearing of the case of Tatyana Sushilnikova, 64, one of Jehovah's Witness from Novokuznetsk. Judge Valeriya Shipitsyna found her guilty of extremism for peaceful religious practice and sentenced her to 4 years suspended with a probation period of 3 years, as well as 10 months of restriction of liberty after serving the main sentence.

Sushilnikova faced persecution for her faith in June 2021. The armed security forces raided her and her husband Sergey in the early morning. "My husband was put on the floor like some kind of criminal, I was pressed against the wall," Tatyana recalls. A year later, a case was opened against her. The Investigation Department of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Kemerovo Region - Kuzbass accused the woman of participating in the activities of an extremist organization. As one of the FSB officers later stated during interrogation in court, Tatyana became a defendant in the criminal case, "because she is Sergey's wife, took an active part in meetings, was engaged in rounds and conducting conversations with the local residents."

The believer does not plead guilty to any crimes against the state and the individual: "I have not violated any law of the state, no one has suffered in any way from my actions." According to Tatyana, during the trial, the prosecution did not present any evidence of her guilt. Neither the testimonies of witnesses nor the expert examinations (religious, linguistic and phonographic) indicated any extremist actions on the part of the believer. It is noteworthy that the examinations themselves were dated to a time when the criminal case had not even been initiated.

As Tatyana says, the unjust persecution brought a lot of deep emotions and difficulties. She receives support from her husband, who himself is serving a 6-year suspended sentence for his faith, and from friends: "During the persecution, we try to encourage each other even more, to support each other in word and deed... When we go to court, we naturally feel excitement. And now we see our dear fellow believers, their smiles, their eyes - the excitement disappears, and it is as if wings are growing behind us".

At the courthouse, a group of friends came to support Tatyana. November, 2023.
At the courthouse, a group of friends came to support Tatyana. November, 2023.
Tatyana and Sergey Sushilnikov near the courthouse. November, 2023.
Tatyana and Sergey Sushilnikov near the courthouse. November, 2023.

In the Kemerovo Region, 18 Jehovah's Witnesses have already been subjected to religious repression. Six men were imprisoned for terms ranging from 3 to 7 years for their faith. The other six residents of Kuzbass were given a suspended sentence. The ECHR judgment in the case of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia stated that "the Russian authorities have not presented any evidence which, in accordance with the Court's jurisprudence, could justify an interference with the applicants' rights to freedom of religion, expression or association" (§ 158).

Sushilnikova's case in Novokuznetsk

Case History
In the summer of 2021, the homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses were searched in Novokuznetsk. A year later, the Investigative Committee opened a criminal case against Tatyana Sushilnikova. She was accused of extremism because of attending Jehovah’s Witnesses services and talking about the Bible. In August 2022, the case went to the same court where Tatyana’s husband, Sergey, defended his right to religion. At the very first hearing, the judge returned Sushilnikova’s case to the prosecutor because of the violations found in the indictment. A month later, in November 2022, the case went back to court. A year later, the judge sentenced Tatiana to 4 years of suspended imprisonment. In January 2024, the appeal court left this decision in force.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Kemerovo Region
Suspected of:
"personally propagandized the activities of the organization and its ideological attitudes", "participated in missionary activities", "participated in meetings of followers of the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses, preaching the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses" (from the decision to bring as an accused)
Court case number:
June 20, 2022
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Kemerovo Region - Kuzbass
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (2)
Court case number:
1-45/2023 (1-342/2022)
Court of First Instance:
Кузнецкий районный суд г. Новокузнецка
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Валерия Шипицына
Case History