Source: website of the Supreme Court of the Udmurt Republic

Unjust Verdicts

Court of Appeal Upheld the Verdict Against the Believers Potapov and Gobozev. They Will Pay a Fine for Practicing a Religion That is Not Banned


On June 18, 2024, the panel of judges of the Supreme Court of the Udmurt Republic upheld the verdict against Sergey Gobozev and Mikhail Potapov. They will have to pay 450,000 and 400,000 rubles, respectively. The court ignored the arguments that the defendants gave in their appeals.

Gobozev and Potapov consider the verdict of the court of first instance unlawful. They are convinced that they are being prosecuted only because they are Christians – Jehovah's Witnesses, practicing their religion in ways not prohibited by law without any extremism. "Finding me guilty," said Sergey Gobozev, "the court did not establish any consequences of my actions ... and did not mention them in the verdict."

Sergey Gobozev drew the attention of the court of appeal to numerous violations of procedural law, including those related to the expert study and the material evidence. None of the questioned witnesses had ever heard extremist statements from him.

Mikhail Potapov stressed that he was accused of participating in peaceful meetings for worship, which he did not even attend. He also noted in his appeal that the state and all officials, are obliged to maintain neutrality and impartiality; they do not have the right to assess the legitimacy of religious beliefs and determine what he can and cannot believe.

In making its decision, the court of appeal did not apply the provisions of Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, according to which everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

The Case of Gobozev and Potapov in Votkinsk

Case History
Pensioner and veteran of labor Sergey Gobozev and repair technician Mikhail Potapov from Votkinsk were detained in January 2021. The Investigative Committee charged them with organizing the activity of an extremist organization only because the men gathered with friends to discuss the Bible. As a result, Potapov spent 4 months in pre-trial detention and Gobozev – under house arrest. Both were then banned from certain activities. In September 2021, the case went to court. During the hearings, it became known that prosecution witnesses had been pressured and their testimonies falsified. In March 2024, the prosecutor requested 6.5 years imprisonment for the believers, but the court imposed fines on both: 450,000 rubles for Gobozev and 400,000 for Potapov. The appeal court left the ruling in force.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Suspected of:
"in the course of illegal religious meetings organized and directed by Gobozev and Potapov, articles from the book 'Holy Scripture - New World Translation' were studied" (from the decision to prosecute as an accused)
Court case number:
January 20, 2021
Current case stage:
the verdict entered into force
Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Udmurt Republic
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
1-9/2023 (1-25/2022; 1-542/2021)
Воткинский районный суд Удмуртской Республики
Тамара Макарова
Case History