Unjust Verdicts

The Sentence of Sona Olopova from Tolyatti Entered Into Force After an Appeal — Two Years of Forced Labor for Believing in Jehovah God

Samara Region

On April 3, 2024, the Samara Regional Court upheld the verdict of Sona Olopova — 2 years of forced labor. The court deemed her participation in joint Bible discussions via video link to be extremism.

In her appeal, Sona noted that the court of first instance did not consider ordinary religious practice as exercising the right to freedom of practicing the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses, which the RF Supreme Court did not prohibit. Instead, in the opinion of the believer, only the fact of professing the religion was enough for the court to pass a sentence. The court did not clarify or establish any other circumstances. In her final statement before the judicial panel, she said: "The materials of my criminal case do not contain a single criminal act, not a single statement against the state, against people of other religions or against people of other nationalities."

The "evidence" included an expert study from another criminal case, in which Olopova is not even mentioned, as well as the testimony of a secret witness who claimed that Sona was distributing banned literature but had not seen it himself.

In the Samara Region, 10 Jehovah's Witnesses have already been prosecuted for their faith, five of whom have been sentenced to imprisonment for terms from 7 to 8 years.

The 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 that of Sona Olopova; a criminal case was initiated against her for her faith. After interrogation, she was made to sign a 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 meetings for worship were held without signs of extremism and were not related to the activities of any legal entity. The prosecutor requested the court to sentence the believer to 4 years in a penal colony. In January 2024, she was sentenced to 2 years of forced labor. A court of appeal in April 2024 upheld this decision.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Samara Region
Court case number:
May 15, 2023
Current case stage:
the verdict entered into force
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
Case History