Kishta Tutinova, Tsagan Khalgayeva and Yekaterina Menkova

Unjust Verdicts

Jehovah's Witnesses Have Been Sentenced in Kalmykia for the First Time Since 2017: Three Women Received Suspended Sentences for Their Faith

Kalmykia

On June 24, 2024, Aleksey Polevshchikov, judge of the Elista City Court of the Republic of Kalmykia gave three believers suspended sentences: Tsagan Khalgayeva and Yekaterina Menkova 2 years, and Kishta Tutinova 3 years. The court considered the women's peaceful conversations about God and the Bible via video conferencing a crime.

In February 2023, the FSB Directorate for the Republic of Kalmykia initiated a criminal case against pensioner Tutinova on suspicion of organizing the activity of an extremist organization. A week later, her hime and the homes of Khalgayeva and Menkova were searched. After that Tutinova was sent to a temporary detention facility for 2 days. In December 2023, Yekaterina and Tsagan were charged with participating in the activity of an extremist organization. A year later, the case went to court, where it was under consideration for 3 months.

The prosecutor requested suspended sentences of 6, 3 and 2.5 for Tutinova, Khalgayeva and Menkova, respectively. In passing the sentence, the court reclassified Tutinova's charge from organizing to participating in the activity of an extremist organization.

The lawyer commented on the videos from the case materials, which were presented as evidence of illegal activity: "We observed everyday conversations about the weather, health, doctors, and culinary recipes. But most importantly, we observed the usual religious life of a believer: the video recorded how Kishta says prayers to Jehovah God, reads and discusses passages from the Bible with others, and talks about religious topics. Neither the Supreme Court of the Republic of Kalmykia nor the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation has prohibited any of this."

Throughout the criminal prosecution, the women experienced various difficulties. During the search, Yekaterina Menkova fell ill, and the security forces had to call an ambulance for her. Tsagan Khalgayeva was dismissed from her job the day after the search and interrogation as a witness in the case. Pensioner Kishta Tutinova, who spent about 5 months under house arrest and more than 6 months under the ban on certain actions, said: "I was in a small one-bedroom apartment with my son's family. There were seven of us. I also was not able to move around and go for walks, and this affected my well-being."

According to the believers, they managed not to lose heart thanks to the support of friends. "It is especially touching when those who have recently faced persecution themselves come, as well as those who are currently going through the same thing directly, but find the strength, time and have the desire to strengthen others," said Yekaterina Menkova. Kishta Tutinova noted that the example of Andrey Vlasov and Dennis Christensen, who managed to maintain a positive attitude in prison, helped her in many ways.

The Case of Tutinova and Others in Elista

Case History
In February 2023, the FSB initiated a criminal case for organizing the activity of an extremist organization against pensioner Kishta Tutinova from Elista and raided her home and the homes of her fellow believers. The reason was that the believer, according to the investigation, “held religious meetings and directly participated in them in the form of online conferences” while being at home. She spent 2 days in a temporary detention facility, more than 4 months under house arrest and about 7 months under a ban on certain actions. Tsagan Khalgayeva and Yekaterina Menkova were witnesses in the case, but in December 2023 they were charged with participating in the activity of an extremist organization. In February 2024, the case went to court. Three months later, the women were given suspended sentences ranging from 2 to 3 years.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Kalmykia
Locality:
Elista
Suspected of:
"conducts religious meetings and directly participates in them in the mode of online conferences, and also involves residents of the region in the activities of this organization for the purpose of propaganda"
Court case number:
12307850001000001
Initiated:
February 16, 2023
Current case stage:
verdict did not take effect
Investigating:
FSB Directorate for the Republic of Kalmykia
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (2), 282.2 (1)
Court case number:
1-112/2024
Court of First Instance:
Элистинский городской суд
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Алексей Полевщиков
Case History