Unjust Verdicts

In Primorye, Three Jehovah's Witnesses Received From 3 to 6.5 Years in a Penal Colony for Their Beliefs

Primorye Territory

Natalia Sharapova, 51, Boris Andreyev, 72, veteran of labor, and Anatoliy Li, 39, received 3, 6 and 6.5 years respectively, in a penal colony. On June 10, 2024, Tatyana Pogorelaya, judge of the Khorolsky District Court of the Primorye Territory, found them guilty of extremism for their faith in Jehovah God.

In October 2022, searches took place in the village of Yaroslavskiy, where the believers live. Andreyev and Li were accused of organizing the activity of an extremist organization, and Natalia Sharapova was accused of participating in this activity. This is how law enforcement officers deemed conducting peaceful meetings for worship and "organizing religious talks" at them. The case was based on video recordings of peaceful meetings for worship, secretly made by a woman who appears in the case under the pseudonym "Elka".

Anatoliy Li drew the court's attention to the fact that the psycho-linguistic expert study stated that there were no signs of extremism in his actions or the actions of the other defendants. "This was also confirmed by all the interrogated witnesses, who clearly stated that I had never incited anyone to hatred or enmity, had not called for illegal actions against any religious or other group of people," Anatoliy added. The believers do not agree with the court's decision and can appeal it.

All three believers were sent to a pretrial detention center, where they remained until the verdict was passed. Natalia Sharapova suffers from a neurological disease and has severe headaches, which made her detention especially difficult. During the first months of their imprisonment, the investigator did not allow Sharapova and Li to be visited by their relatives, but letters helped them a lot.

Boris Andreyev is one of the oldest Jehovah's Witness behind bars in Russia. A total of 58 Jehovah's Witnesses are being prosecuted for their faith in Primorye Territory, five of them have already been sent to a penal colony, and 27 have been given suspended sentences.

The Case of Andreyev and Others in Yaroslavskiy

Case History
In October 2022, law enforcement officers conducted searches at 12 addresses of believers in the village of Yaroslavskiy in Primorye. Earlier, a case was initiated against Anatoliy Li and unidentified persons under the article on involving others in the activity of an extremist organization. Later, the charge was reclassified as organizing and participating in such activity. As part of this case, Anatoliy Li and two other believers, Boris Andreyev and Natalia Sharapova, ended up in a pretrial detention center. The charges were based on video recordings of meetings for worship in which the believers talked about their faith, sang religious songs glorifying God and Jesus Christ, and offered prayers to God. The case went to court in September 2023. After nine months, the believers received sentences ranging from 3 to 6.5 years in a penal colony.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Primorye Territory
Court case number:
October 3, 2022
Current case stage:
verdict did not take effect
Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Primorsky Territory
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1), 282.2 (2)
Court case number:
1-8/2024 (1-183/2023)
Court of First Instance:
Хорольский районный суд Приморского края
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Татьяна Погорелая
Case History