Sona Olopova

Unjust Verdicts

The First Sentence for Faith in the Samara Region. Sona Olopova, 36, From Tolyatti Was Sentenced to Two Years of Forced Labor

Samara Region

On January 25, 2024, Judge Tatyana Begunova of the Central District Court of Tolyatti found Sona Olopova guilty of extremism because of her religion and sentenced her to 2 years of forced labor. She will serve her sentence in a correctional center. The believer considers the sentence unfair.

"The evidence presented by the prosecution does not confirm my guilt in committing a crime. All arguments boil down to the fact that . . . in the city of Tolyatti, a small group of people professing the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses held worship services, which began with song and prayer and were aimed at discussing the Bible," Sona said in court.

The state prosecutor asked for 4 years in prison and 8 months of restriction of freedom for the believer. At the same time, according to the believer, the prosecutor could not explain what specific crimes were committed, where and how Olopova committed.

Sona faced criminal prosecution in May 2023, when an investigator of the Investigative Committee opened a criminal case against her for participating in the activities of an extremist organization. The security forces searched her home, interrogated her herself and released her on her own recognizance.

The believer told what support she received from friends: "Leaving the building of the Investigative Committee, I saw how my friends came to meet me and hug me. Many people were very worried about me, crying. So much love, attention and gifts, cards, various messages with the assurance of my love and the Father."

During the trial, it became clear that the prosecution had no evidence of the believer's guilt in extremism. According to the defense of the believer, one of the examinations presented by the prosecution was prepared in the framework of another criminal case, and conclusions were made in relation to third parties, so this material could not be attached to the case. Prosecution witnesses questioned at the hearing, including one secret witness, confirmed that there were no calls for violence or religious hatred at Jehovah's Witnesses worship services, and that the meetings were exclusively peaceful.

At the moment, in the Samara region, in addition to Sona Olopova, 9 more Jehovah's Witnesses are defending their constitutional right to freedom of religion in the courts.

Case of Olopova in Tolyatti

Case history
In May 2023, in Tolyatti, officers of the Investigative Committee and the FSB broke into the homes of at least three families of believers, including Sona Olopova, against whom a criminal case was opened for her faith. After interrogation, they placed her under recognizance agreement. At the end of July 2023, the case went to court. There was a secret witness in the case who said that the services were held without signs of extremism and were not related to the activities of any legal entity. The prosecutor asked the court to sentence the believer to 4 years in prison. In January 2024, she was sentenced to 2 years of forced labor.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Samara Region
Locality:
Tolyatti
Court case number:
12302360032000242
Initiated:
May 15, 2023
Current case stage:
Appeal
Investigating:
Central Interdistrict Investigation Department for the City of Tolyatti of the Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Samara Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (2)
Court case number:
1-50/2024 (1-547/2023)
Court of First Instance:
Центральный районный суд г. Тольятти
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Татьяна Бегунова
Background