Kirill Guschin, his loved ones and friends near the court on the day of appeal hearing, July 2, 2024

Legal Victories

An Appeal in Kabardino-Balkaria Upheld Kirill Gushchin's Right to Profess the Religion of Jehovah's Witnesses

Kabardino-Balkaria

On July 2, 2024, the Supreme Court of Kabardino-Balkaria dismissed the prosecutor's appeal against the acquittal of Kirill Gushchin, one of Jehovah's Witnesses. The acquittal entered into force. The right to rehabilitation is recognized for the believer.

Two months earlier, in May 2024, the court of first instance acquitted Kirill Gushchin, finding him not guilty of extremism. The prosecutor requested 7 years in a general regime colony for the believer.

In the appeal, the prosecutor expressed disagreement with the conclusions made by the judge of first instance. According to the state prosecutor, the testimony of witnesses and experts was assessed incorrectly and required a retrial. The lawyer and the believer himself disagree and believe that the state prosecutor did not take into account the evidence obtained in court, as well as the explanations from the decision of the Plenum of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation that individual or joint confession of religion, the performance of divine services or other religious rites and ceremonies do not constitute crimes (paragraph 20). The defense also insisted that the court had already carefully considered all the evidence and found that Gushchin's actions did not contain signs of extremism.

Kirill Gushchin, for his part, drew attention to the fact that the court of first instance did not commit violations when considering the evidence of both the prosecution and the defense. He added: "The arguments presented by the public prosecutor do not contain facts that would indicate the existence of grounds for overturning the sentence."

The court sided with the defendant, stating: "Thus, the evidence presented by the prosecution in its entirety did not refute the defendant's assertion that he did not organize and did not continue the activities of the local religious organization Jehovah's Witnesses of Maiskiy, which was liquidated by a court decision, but, being an adherent and follower of the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses, participated in the conduct of religious ceremonies of this religion in residential premises ... reading and discussing religious literature, viewing religious materials, disseminating religious beliefs, which is considered the exercise of the right to freedom of conscience and religion and is not related to the organization, continuation or renewal of the prohibited activities of an organization recognized as extremist."

Kirill Gushchin has been defending his right to religion for more than 4 years. A criminal case for participation in activities of an extremist organization was also initiated against the believer's wife, Svetlana.

In 2021, another Jehovah's Witness from Kabardino-Balkaria, Yuriy Zalipaev, was acquitted. The court decision has already been approved by higher courts. The prosecution officially apologized for the unjustified criminal prosecution, and the court ruled to pay compensation for moral damage.

The Case of Gushchin in Mayskiy

Case History
In May 2020, the Investigative Committee initiated a criminal case against Kirill Gushchin, a peaceful family man from the town of Mayskiy, for his faith. Law enforcement officers conducted a series of searches in the homes of believers. In the early morning, they broke into homes, planted banned publications and used force against the believers' family members. About a year later, another case was initiated against Kirill Gushchin, this time for "involving others in the activity of an extremist organization," as the security forces call the conversations of believers about the Bible. Later, the case against Kirill's wife Svetlana and 4 other peaceful women was made into a separate proceeding from the Gushchin case. In June 2021, Gushchin's case went to court. At the hearings, it became obvious that religious scholar Larisa Astakhova "had substituted objective concepts with her personal opinion" in the expert study on which the case was based. In May 2024, the court acquitted the believer, and later the appeal instance upheld this ruling.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Kabardino-Balkaria
Locality:
Maysky
Suspected of:
According to the investigation, "he took active actions, expressed in the conduct of divine services, consisting of the sequential performance of songs ... and prayers to Jehovah God."
Court case number:
12002830005000024
Initiated:
May 7, 2020
Current case stage:
the verdict entered into force
Investigating:
Maysky Interdistrict Investigation Department of the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1), 282.2 (1.1)
Court case number:
1-1/2024 (1-2/2023; 1-7/2022; 1-128/2021)
Court:
Майский районный суд Кабардино-Балкарской Республики
Judge:
Руслан Атакуев
Case History