Nikolay Saparov with his wife and daughter

Unjust Verdicts

Court Sentenced Nikolay Saparov, One of Jehovah's Witness From Adygea, to 6 Years in Prison

Adygea

On January 17, 2024, the judge of the Maykop City Court of the Republic of Adygea, Zaurbiy Birzhev, found Nikolay Saparov guilty of extremism and sentenced him to 6 years in a general regime colony with restriction of liberty for 1 year.

The believer does not agree with the verdict and is ready to appeal it to higher authorities. The prosecutor requested 7.5 years in a general regime colony for him.

In March 2022, Nikolay Saparov was detained at the airport in Mineralnye Vody, where he was waiting for departure with his wife and minor daughter. He was taken about 300 km away to the law enforcement department in Adygea for interrogation. As Nikolay stated during one of the court hearings, the security forces beat him along the way, and, using an electric shocker, forced him to take the blame for extremism. According to investigators, Saparov committed "actions of an organizational nature ... expressed in meetings using the Internet ... coordination of talks and religious services at these meetings."

"[He] was told to plead guilty, because in this case he would be given a lighter punishment," lawyer Ruslan Dedukhov told reporters earlier.

After the interrogations, Nikolay Saparov was taken to his home for a search, which, according to the defendant and his lawyer, was carried out with violations, including without witnesses. As a result, investigators "found" documents and items in Saparov's house that did not belong to him. After that, Nikolay was sent to jail, where he has been for almost two years.

The trial revealed the inconsistency of the accusations. One of the secret witnesses admitted that Saparov did not call him to violence or force him to become a member of any banned organization.

The prosecution presented to the court a comprehensive psycholinguistic examination, which, according to the conclusion of the commission of specialists of the Adygea State Public Association of Linguists-Experts, was carried out with violations. For example, the expert who performed it does not have a higher linguistic education. But the court did not exclude the document from the case file.

Saparov's lawyer, in turn, presented to the court the opinion of religious scholar Ekaterina Elbakyan: she analyzed the video in the case in which Saparov makes a talk. According to the expert's conclusions, in the believer's statements "there are no signs of propaganda of exclusivity, there is no call for religious discord, enmity and hatred against those who do not belong to Jehovah's Witnesses."

"The religion of Jehovah's Witnesses, unlike their legal entities on the territory of Russia, is not prohibited, and, therefore, believers may, on the basis of Article 28 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, meet during divine services and at any other time, communicate on religious and other topics, talk about their religion as private, unauthorized persons and invite other persons to their meetings to familiarize themselves with their religious activities and doctrines," - the expertise says.

The persecution of the believer became a test for his family as well. Speaking in court with the final statement, Nikolay said: "In my indictment it is written that there are no victims, but this is not so. There are victims: me, my wife, my daughter and people close to us. The stress caused by my arrest, detention and further criminal prosecution has caused physical, psychological and emotional harm."

Nikolay's wife, Natalia, shared: "I confess that it is very difficult for me to endure staying far from my husband. Every morning I wake up in tears, realizing that I need to live another day without my beloved. At first, I pray until it gets easier. Then I read the Bible."

In Adygea, four Jehovah's Witnesses have already faced criminal prosecution; three of them, including Nikolay Saparov, are in pre-trial detention.

Saparov's case in Maykop

Case history
In March 2022, Nikolay Saparov, a Jehovah’s Witness from Maykop, was detained while he was at the airport in Mineralnye Vody with his wife and minor daughter. The believer was subjected to violence with the use of a stun gun. On the same day, a search was carried out in the Saparovs’ apartment, to which the believer was taken by an investigator. Nikolay spent two days in a temporary detention center, after which he was placed in a pre-trial detention center, where he has been kept for almost two years. The man was included in the list of Rosfinmonitoring and accused of organizing the activities of a banned organization. This is how the investigation interprets the conduct of peaceful services that are not prohibited by the court. In May 2022, the case went to court. In January 2024, the court sentenced the believer to 6 years in a general regime colony with restriction of freedom for 1 year.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Adygea
Locality:
Maykop
Suspected of:
According to the investigation, he "commits actions of an organizational nature ... expressed in meetings using the Internet ... coordination of speeches and worship services at these meetings."
Court case number:
12202790002000038
Initiated:
March 22, 2022
Current case stage:
Appeal
Investigating:
Investigation Department for the city of Maikop of the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of Russia for the Republic of Adygea
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
1-14/2024 (1-43/2023; 1-421/2022)
Court:
Майкопский городской суд Республики Адыгея
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Биржев Заурбий
Background