From left to right: Tatyana and Vitaliy Zhuk, Svetlana Sedova, Nikolay Polevodov, Maya Karpushkina and Stanislav Kim outside the court building. May 2024

Unjust Verdicts

Court in Khabarovsk Handed Down Record Harsh Sentences to a Group of Jehovah's Witnesses—Up to 8.5 Years in a Penal Colony

Khabarovsk Territory

The longest terms of imprisonment since the liquidation of legal entities of Jehovah's Witnesses were given to believers by Roman Chiskovskiy, judge of the Industrialniy District Court of Khabarovsk. The decision was handed down on June 20, 2024, after five years of litigation. For Nikolay Polevodov and Stanislav Kim, this is the second sentence for their faith.

Nikolay Polevodov was sentenced to 8.5 years in a penal colony, Vitaliy Zhuk — to 8 years and 4 months, and Stanislav Kim — to 8 years and 2 months. They were taken into custody in the courtroom. The court gave the women suspended sentences: 5 years for Tatyana Zhuk and Svetlana Sedova and 4 years for Maya Karpushkina.

"During the entire trial," said Vitaliy Zhuk, "I never heard what exactly in my words and actions constituted a crime of an extremist nature and what I should stop doing in order to not be considered a criminal." Nikolay Polevodov expressed a similar thought: "All the facts considered during this trial clearly prove that I am being prosecuted not for actual crimes, but for my religious views. The prosecution is trying to promote the idea that I committed a crime, without even providing evidence."

The Investigative Committee initiated a criminal case against six Jehovah's Witnesses in November 2018. On the same day, riot police arranged a raid on believers who had gathered in a cafe for a friendly party. As a result, Kim, Polevodov and Zhuk ended up in a pretrial detention center, where they spent 2 months. They were then under house arrest for between 6 and 12 months.

The case went to court in July 2019. For a year Judge Vera Pismennaya examined the case materials and interrogated witnesses, but the basis of the charges was never clarified. The case was returned to the prosecutor's office, and 4 months later it again went to court.

The defense recused Judge Chiskovskiy, pointing to an obvious "bias against the defendants and the desire for a guilty verdict" at the stage of the judicial investigation. In their motion, the lawyers noted that, among other things, the judge limited the right of the accused to familiarize themselves with the evidence in the case, and also allowed himself to reprimand them in a raised voice, "perceiving" some motions "as personal insults." Roman Chiskovskiy refused his recusal.

Meanwhile, Stanislav Kim and Nikolay Polevodov were defendants in another criminal case for their faith. The Zheleznodorozhniy District Court of Khabarovsk gave them a 2-year suspended sentence "for participating in extremist activity," namely: for discussing the Bible and Christian teachings. This sentence is already considered to have been served.

At the time of publication of this text, out of 811 defendants in criminal cases for their faith, 170 were sentenced to imprisonment. 108 of them (over 63%) received sentences of 5 years or more; 9 people were sentenced to 8 years or more.

The Case of Polevodov and Others in Khabarovsk

Case History
Peaceful residents of Khabarovsk, Nikolay Polevodov, Stanislav Kim, Vitaliy and Tatyana Zhuk, Svetlana Sedova and Maya Karpushkina came under investigation after riot police invaded a friendly party in a café in November 2018. Three men were sent to a pretrial detention center, and later placed under house arrest. As a result, the Investigative Committee charged the men with organizing the activity of an extremist organization, and the women with participating in it. The only reason is their faith in Jehovah God and discussing the Bible with friends. The court of first instance took 14 months to determine the groundlessness of the charges, and the case was returned to the prosecutor’s office. In December 2021, it went to court again. In June 2024, Polevodov, Zhuk and Kim were sent to a penal colony for 8.5 years, 8 years and 4 months and 8 years and 2 months, respectively. Tatyana Zhuk and Svetlana Sedova were given a 5-year suspended sentence, and Maya Karpushkina 4 years. Kim and Polevodov simultaneously were defendants in another criminal case for their faith and defended their beliefs in another court.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Khabarovsk Territory
Locality:
Khabarovsk
Suspected of:
According to the investigation, they organized the activities of a religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses on the territory of Khabarovsk (with reference to the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation to liquidate all 396 registered organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses)
Court case number:
11802080002000049
Initiated:
November 10, 2018
Current case stage:
verdict did not take effect
Investigating:
Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of Russia for the Khabarovsk Territory
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (2), 282.2 (1)
Court case number:
1-6/2024 (1-15/2023; 1-216/2022; 1-1031/2021)
Court:
Индустриальный районный суд г. Хабаровска
Judge:
Роман Чисковский
Case History