Unjust Verdicts

"I Was Found Guilty Only for Being One of Jehovah's Witnesses." The Appeal Instance Confirmed the Suspended Sentence for Valeriy Vyaznikov

Primorye Territory

On January 11, 2023, the Primorye Territory Court upheld the conviction of Valeriy Vyaznikov, a 60-year-old resident of Luchegorsk, to 2.5 years suspended for participating in the "activities of a banned organization." The believer considers this decision unjust.

The court considered the fact that Vyaznikov is one of Jehovah's Witnesses to be evidence of extremism. The defendant noted: "I was convicted only for peacefully practicing my religion, which was reflected in the fact that I once talked about my beliefs and the teachings of the Bible with a young man who turned out to be a law enforcement officer."

The book "About People Steadfast in Persecution," published in 2023 by Doctor of Philosophy, religious scholar Sergey Ivanenko and Doctor of Cultural Studies Yelena Volkova, notes: "Russia is the only country where they [Jehovah's Witnesses] are accused of extremism."

It is noteworthy that about 26% of the nearly 800 Jehovah's Witnesses persecuted in Russia for their faith are over 60 years old.

Vyaznikov case in Luchegorsk

Case history
In September 2018, law enforcement officers began operational-search measures against Jehovah’s Witnesses from Luchegorsk. A covert operative feigning interest in the Bible recorded his conversations with believers. In July 2021, the Investigative Committee opened a criminal case in which Valery Vyaznikov from the village of Chegdomyn was accused of extremism because he had discussed the Bible with others. In December 2022, the case was transferred to a court located 1000 kilometers away from the believer’s place of residence. He was allowed to participate in most of the meetings via video conferencing. On November 7, 2023, the court sentenced Valeriy to a suspended sentence of two and a half years.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Primorye Territory
Locality:
Luchegorsk
Suspected of:
"involved a resident of Luchegorsk in the activities of the religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses";
Court case number:
42202050012000036
Initiated:
July 16, 2021
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigating:
Investigative Department for Dalnerechensk of the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee for the Primorsky Territory
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (2)
Court case number:
1-88/2023 (1-317/2022)
Court of First Instance:
Пожарский районный суд Приморского края
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Нина Калашник
Background