Tatyana Sushilnikova on the day of the appeal hearing. January 2024

Unjust Verdicts

Appeal in the Kemerovo Region Upheld the Sentence of Pensioner Tatyana Sushilnikova — 4 Years Suspended for Believing in Jehovah God

Kemerovo Region

On January 16, 2024, a panel of judges of the Kemerovo Regional Court upheld the sentence of 64-year-old Tatyana Sushilnikova from Novokuznetsk — 4 years of suspended imprisonment for participating in the activities of an extremist organization.

According to the believer, the verdict of the first instance was issued with gross violations of the law and is subject to cancellation. In her appeal, Sushilnikova noted that the court's decision does not contain a description of the illegal actions of which she was accused, as well as specific dates and places of their commission. Witnesses interrogated by the court admitted that they did not know Tatyana, did not talk to her on religious topics, and did not receive Bible literature from her. A sample of the believer's voice for phonoscopic examination was taken in violation of procedural norms.

"The verdict lists more than 200 pieces of evidence ... [However] the court does not provide information on how they confirm my guilt. In particular, there are numerous references to personal notebooks, notepads, documents, etc., seized from third parties, in which I am not mentioned and to which I have nothing to do," Sushilnikova said. Thus, the court considered telephone conversations with her husband to be one of the "evidence" of guilt, while audio recordings were not provided and, accordingly, the content of the conversations was not established.

Tatyana Sushilnikova said that the decision of the court of first instance in reality means the introduction of a ban on religion. She noted: "All my numerous references to the Bible, which obliges Christians to worship God together, which was the real motive for my behavior, were left without any evaluation." In passing the verdict, the court ignored the explanation of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation that the Russian legal entities of Jehovah's Witnesses had been liquidated, and not the doctrine itself. At the same time, the expressions "Religious Organization of Jehovah's Witnesses", "International Religious Organization of Jehovah's Witnesses" and "Jehovah's Witnesses" mentioned in the verdict are not legal entities and have not been liquidated by the Supreme Court.

The Court of Appeal refused to take Tatyana's arguments into account. A similar decision was made by the same court in March 2023 against the spouse of the believer, 67-year-old Sergey Sushilnikov, approving his 6-year suspended sentence. Judge Zinoviev also previously recognized the detention of the Sushilnikovs' fellow believers, Maksim Morozov and Yuriy Usanov from the town of Taiga, as lawful.

Since the ban on Jehovah's Witnesses in 2017, more than 2,000 homes of believers have been searched, about 400 people have been imprisoned, and more than 730 believers have been charged with extremism.

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.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Kemerovo Region
Locality:
Novokuznetsk
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:
12202320010000232
Initiated:
June 20, 2022
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigating:
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
Background