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RUSSIA: More jailed after "extremist organisation" trials - list

As of 9 June, 20 Jehovah's Witnesses and 1 Muslim convicted on extremism-related criminal charges are in jail or in detention awaiting appeals. Another Jehovah's Witness is under house arrest and will be jailed if her appeal fails. Another Muslim who met with others to study Nursi's works is in detention awaiting deportation after serving his jail term. Twice as many prisoners of conscience are serving sentences or are in detention awaiting appeals for exercising freedom of religion or belief as in November 2020.

Since November 2020, the number of Jehovah's Witnesses and Muslims convicted on extremism-related criminal charges and serving jail terms or awaiting appeals has almost doubled, from 11 to 21. Of these, 20 are Jehovah's Witnesses and one is a Muslim who met with others to study theologian Said Nursi's works. All were sentenced to terms in general-regime labour camps (ispravitelniye kolonii, "correctional colonies").

Yevgeny Kim
Memorial
Another Muslim, Yevgeny Kim, who met others to study Nursi's writings was sentenced to three years and nine months' imprisonment in June 2017. In January 2019, he was stripped of his Russian citizenship, and was immediately placed in a detention centre for foreign and stateless persons upon his release in April 2019. He remained there for more than two years, as his birthplace of Uzbekistan refuses to accept him (see full list of all 24 prisoners of conscience at the end of this article). [UPDATE 24 July 2021: The detention centre released Kim on 31 May 2021.]

Among recent convictions, in February 2021, Abakan City Court jailed 70-year-old Valentina Baranovskaya for two years to punish her for meeting fellow Jehovah's Witnesses for worship, a verdict her lawyer described as "devoid of all sympathy and compassion". Her 46-year-old son Roman Baranovsky was jailed for six years. Baranovskaya is the oldest - and first female - Jehovah's Witness to be sentenced to imprisonment since the 2017 ban on Jehovah's Witness activity.

Recent convictions bring to 29 the number of Jehovah's Witnesses (and one Muslim who met others to read theologian Said Nursi's works) sentenced to imprisonment since May 2018 for exercising their right to freedom of religion and belief. All but one of the Jehovah's Witnesses were sentenced as a direct consequence of the Supreme Court's 2017 liquidation of the Jehovah's Witness Administrative Centre, and the consequent prohibition of Jehovah's Witness activities nationwide.

In November 2020, 8 Jehovah's Witnesses and one Muslim who met with others to study Nursi's works were serving terms in general-regime labour camps, and another two Jehovah's Witnesses were detained awaiting appeal. Another Muslim who met other Muslims to study Nursi's writings had been stripped of his Russian citizenship, and was awaiting deportation in a detention centre for foreigners and stateless persons.

Currently serving prison terms or detained

Of the 20 Jehovah's Witnesses (10 more than in November 2020) and two Muslim readers of Nursi's works currently on 9 June 2021 serving prison terms or in detention:

- 15 are already serving their terms in general-regime labour camps across the country, usually hundreds or even thousands of kilometres from their home regions;
- 6 are being held in detention centres while their appeals are pending;
- and 1 is awaiting deportation in a detention centre for foreigners and stateless persons.

One other Jehovah's Witness - Alevtina Bagratyan - remains under house arrest awaiting her appeal. The three Jehovah's Witnesses convicted with her in Kursk on 3 June are among the six being held in detention centres while their appeals are pending.

Deported, released

Two Jehovah's Witnesses who were previously in prison have been released and deported from Russia to Uzbekistan and Ukraine. They were deprived of their Russian citizenship in 2020 as a direct result of their convictions.

Six of the 29 Jehovah's Witnesses convicted and jailed since May 2018 were released upon (or shortly after) conviction. This was because they had already served equivalent terms in detention while under investigation and on trial.

Over 470 under investigation, on trial, or convicted

Dennis Christensen behind glass in Railway District Court, Oryol
Currenttime.tv
More than 470 Jehovah's Witnesses remain under investigation, are on trial, or have been convicted for continuing to meet for prayer and Bible study after the 2017 Supreme Court ban. They argue that the ban applies to the activities of the Administrative Centre and its subsidiary local congregations as legal entities, not to Jehovah's Witness beliefs or their expression by Jehovah's Witnesses.

No trials are currently underway of Muslims who met to study Nursi's works, but three people are facing prosecution in the Tatarstan and Dagestan Republics.

A total of 104 people have now received sentences, including 10 fines, 66 suspended sentences, and 28 prison terms. Several court decisions have not yet come into force, as appeals are still pending.

Two other Jehovah's Witnesses have been convicted of "continuing the activities" of the local Jehovah's Witness religious organisation in Oryol, which was liquidated as "extremist" in 2016, before the nationwide ban. One of them - Danish citizen Dennis Christensen - has been imprisoned.

At present, only one Muslim who met with others to read Nursi's works remains imprisoned - Ilgar Vagif-ogly Aliyev (born 16 February 1977). A court in Dagestan sentenced him in May 2018 to eight years' imprisonment plus two years of restrictions on freedom for alleged involvement in "Nurdzhular".

Courts in Russia's illegally annexed territories of Crimea and Sevastopol have also sentenced Jehovah's Witnesses and Muslims to imprisonment for exercising their freedom of religion and belief.

Acquitted, charges dropped

Yury Zalipayev sits behind lawyer Anton Omelchenko, Maysky District Court, September 2018
CurrentTime TV
In the last four years, only one Jehovah's Witness - Yury Zalipayev from the Republic of Kabardino-Balkariya - has been acquitted of an extremism-related offence. His case was unconnected to the 2017 ban.

Charges against a further nine have been dropped. Eight of them were being prosecuted as a consequence of the 2017 ban, the other on unrelated "extremism" charges.

Raids on Jehovah's Witness homes continue

The Investigative Committee, police, the FSB security service, and National Guard troops continue to raid Jehovah's Witness homes. Some of the raids have included torture, with no arrests or trials of suspect torturers. The most recent known raids were in Kemerovo Region on 8 June, Khabarovsk Region on 5 June, Lipetsk Region on 1 June, and Altay Region on 27 May. Prosecutions are currently underway in 64 of Russia's 83 federal subjects.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in May 2020 adopted a wide-ranging Opinion condemning the "ever-growing number of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia who have been arrested, detained and charged with criminal activity on the basis of mere exercise of freedom of religion".

Muslims who meet to study the writings of Said Nursi may also be prosecuted under the Extremism Law for organising or participating in the activities of "Nurdzhular". This organisation was banned as extremist in 2008, but Muslims in Russia deny any such formal organisation ever existed. Typically, such Muslims meet in homes to study Islam, with one or more expounding on Nursi's works. They also pray, eat, and drink tea together, and do not seek state permission to meet.

Prosecutions

Despite the similarities in the manifestations of freedom of religion and belief being prosecuted, including meeting in each other's homes to pray and sing together, study sacred texts, and to discuss shared beliefs, trials have so far ended in a variety of sentences. These have ranged from prison terms of several years, to suspended sentences of varying lengths, to a range of fines. one sentence of assigned labour, later changed to a fine.

No one prosecuted in cases relating to the 2017 nationwide ban on Jehovah's Witnesses has been acquitted, though judges have returned some cases to prosecutors who later resubmit them. Defendants have sometimes succeeded in getting sentences reduced, or having cases sent for retrial on appeal, though no conviction has yet been overturned.

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List of those jailed or detained after "extremism"-related convictions for exercising freedom of religion or belief. Unless otherwise stated, all those named are Jehovah's Witnesses.

Convictions have been under these Criminal Code articles:
- Article 282, Part 1 ("Actions directed at the incitement of hatred [nenavist] or enmity [vrazhda], as well as the humiliation of an individual or group of persons on the basis of sex, race, nationality, language, origin, attitude to religion, or social group");
- Article 282.2 for "organising" (Part 1), or "participating in" (Part 2), "the activity of a social or religious association or other organisation in relation to which a court has adopted a decision legally in force on liquidation or ban on the activity in connection with the carrying out of extremist activity". The majority of convictions have been under this Article;
- Article 282.2, Part 1.1 ("Inclination, recruitment or other involvement of a person in an extremist organisation");
- and Article 282.3, Part 1 ("Financing extremist activity").

This list is broken down by category of punishment with regional headings referring to where people were tried, not where they are imprisoned.

CURRENT IMPRISONMENTS


SENTENCES HAVE ENTERED LEGAL FORCE

- Republic of Dagestan

Izberbash City Court
28 May 2018
1) Ilgar Vagif-ogly Aliyev (Muslim - born 16 February 1977) - 8 years + 2 years' restrictions on freedom
Criminal Code Articles: 282.2, Part 1; 282.2, Part 1.1
Appeal: unsuccessful - 25 July 2018, Supreme Court of the Republic of Dagestan
Due for release from prison: approximately September 2024
Prison address: 410086, Saratovskaya oblast, g. Saratov, Peschano-Umetsky trakt, p. Yelshanka, FKU Ispravitelnaya koloniya No. 33 UFSIN Rossii po Saratovskoy oblasti

- Kemerovo Region

Beryozovsky City Court
2 September 2020
2) Sergey Alekseyevich Britvin (born 18 August 1965) - 4 years
3) Vadim Anatolyevich Levchuk (born 6 February 1972) - 4 years
Criminal Code Article 282.2, Part 1
Appeal: unsuccessful - 19 January 2021, Kemerovo Regional Court
Due for release from prison (Britvin and Levchuk): 1 January 2022
Prison address: 630097, Novosibirskaya oblast, g. Novosibirsk, ul. Zvyozdnaya 34, FKU Ispravitelnaya koloniya No. 3 UFSIN Rossii po Novosibirskoy oblasti

- Khakasiya Republic

Valentina Baranovskaya
Jehovah’s Witnesses
Abakan City Court
24 February 2021
4) Roman Lyubomirovich Baranovsky (born 27 June 1974) - 6 years
5) Valentina Ivanovna Baranovskaya (born 8 April 1951) - 2 years
Criminal Code Articles: 282.2, Part 1 and 282.2, Part 2 respectively
Appeal: unsuccessful - 24 May 2021, Supreme Court of the Khakassiya Republic
Due for release from prison: Baranovsky 10 January 2027; Baranovskaya 10 January 2023
Detention centre address: 655017, Respublika Khakasiya, g. Abakan, kv. Molodyozhniy 22B, FKU Sledstvenniy izolyator No. 1 UFSIN Rossii po Respublike Khakasiya

- Krasnodar Region

Abinsk District Court, Abinsk
10 February 2021
6) Aleksandr Yevgenyevich Ivshin (born 21 August 1957) - 7 years and 6 months, plus destruction of Bible (in an edition not banned as "extremist")
Criminal Code Article: 282.2, Part 1
Appeal: unsuccessful - 15 April 2021, Krasnodar Regional Court
Due for release from prison: 14 April 2028
Prison address: from 1 June 2021 - 390013, Ryazanskaya oblast, g. Ryazan, Pervomaysky prospekt 27b, FKU Sledstvenniy izolyator No. 1 UFSIN Rossii po Ryazanskoy oblasti

(This is Ivshin's seventh place of detention since his conviction - one in Novorossiysk in his home region of Krasnodar; one each in Rostov-on-Don, Volgograd, and Saratov; two in Samara Region; and now one in Ryazan. It remains unknown where he will serve his sentence.)

Abinsk District Court
30 March 2021
7) Oleg Ivanovich Danilov (born 22 April 1974) - 3 years
Criminal Code Article: 282.2, Part 2
Appeal: unsuccessful - 25 May 2021, Krasnodar Regional Court
Due for release from prison: 1 March 2024
Prison address: 352680, Krasnodarskiy kray, Apsheronskiy rayon, g. Khadyzhensk, ul. Griboyedova 42, FKU Ispravitelnaya koloniya No. 9 UFSIN Rossii po Krasnodarskomu krayu

- Novosibirsk Region

Lenin District Court, Novosibirsk
16 December 2020
8) Yury Prokopyevich Savelyov (born 1 January 1954) - 6 years
Criminal Code Article: 282.2, Part 1
Appeal: unsuccessful - 5 April 2021, Novosibirsk Regional Court
Due for release from prison: 27 August 2023
Prison address: 658209, Altaysky kray, g. Rubtsovsk, ul. Traktornaya 23, FKU Ispravitelnaya koloniya No. 5 UFSIN Rossii po Altayskomu krayu

- Omsk Region

Pervomaysky District Court, Omsk
30 November 2020
9) Sergey Valyeryevich Polyakov (born 28 April 1972) - 3 years
Criminal Code Articles: 282.2, Part 1 and 282.3 Part 1
Appeal: unsuccessful - 28 May 2021, Omsk Regional Court
Due for release from prison: 30 November 2022
Detention centre address: 644007, Omskaya oblast, g. Omsk, ul. Ordzhonikidze 86, FKU Sledstvenniy izolyator No. 1 UFSIN Rossii po Omskoy oblasti
Three fellow defendants were tried under Criminal Code Article 282.2 Part 2 and given two-year suspended sentences.

- Oryol Region

Railway District Court, Oryol
6 February 2019
10) Dennis Ole Christensen (born 18 December 1972 - Danish citizen) - 6 years
Criminal Code Article: 282.2, Part 1
Appeal: unsuccessful - 23 May 2019, Oryol Regional Court
Due for release from prison: 24 May 2022
Prison address: 307754 Kurskaya oblast, g. Lgov, ul. Primakova 23A, FKU Ispravitelnaya koloniya No. 3 UFSIN Rossii po Kurskoy oblasti

Christensen has attempted unsuccessfully to gain early release. A court ruling of 23 June 2020, which replaced his remaining term with a fine, was challenged by prosecutors, and Christensen's request was turned down on re-examination on 26 October 2020 (this decision was upheld at Kursk Regional Court on 10 February 2021).

- Saratov Region

Lenin District Court, Saratov
19 September 2019
11) Aleksey Vladimirovich Budenchuk (born 27 July 1982) - 3 years and 6 months
12) Gennady Vasilyevich German (born 12 June 1969) - 2 years and 6 months
13) Roman Aleksandrovich Gridasov (16 September 1978) - 2 years and 6 months
14) Aleksey Petrovich Miretsky (born 14 December 1975) - 2 years and 6 months

All four also have 1 year's restrictions on freedom + 5-year ban on holding leadership positions in any public organisation. They were convicted alongside Konstantin Bazhenov and Feliks Makhammadiyev, who have since been released and deported.

Some of the six have been tortured. No suspect torturer is known to have been arrested or put on criminal trial.

Criminal Code Article: 282.2, Part 1
Appeal: unsuccessful - 20 December 2019, Saratov Regional Court
Prison address: 460026, g. Orenburg, Krymsky pereulok 119, FKU Ispravitelnaya koloniya No. 1 UFSIN Rossii po Orenburgskoy oblasti

Gridasov, Miretsky, German, and Budenchuk applied for early release and the replacement of their remaining terms with fines. Central District Court in Orenburg refused all four requests (Gridasov on 10 December 2020 (unsuccessful appeal on 24 February 2021), Miretsky on 15 December 2020 (unsuccessful appeal on 26 February 2021), German on 18 January 2021, Budenchuk on 19 February 2021).

(Bazhenov in Saratov should not be confused with fellow Jehovah's Witness Konstantin Aleksandrovich Bazhenov from Kamchatka, given a two-year suspended sentence in September 2020.)

- Tomsk Region

October District Court, Tomsk
5 November 2019
15) Sergey Gennadyevich Klimov (born 26 March 1970) - 6 years + 1 year's restriction on freedom; 5-year ban on any educational activity and posting material on the internet.
Criminal Code Article: 282.2, Part 1
Appeal: unsuccessful - 20 February 2020, Tomsk Regional Court
Due for release from prison: 24 July 2023
Prison address: 414044 Astrakhanskaya oblast, g. Astrakhan, ul. Sovetskoy Gvardii 50, FKU Ispravitelnaya koloniya No. 8 UFSIN Rossii po Astrakhanskoy oblasti

SENTENCED TO IMPRISONMENT - DETAINED OR UNDER HOUSE ARREST AWAITING APPEAL

- Krasnodar Region

Abinsk District Court
6 April 2021
1) Aleksandr Anatolyevich Shcherbina (born 11 March 1976) - 3 years
Criminal Code Article: 282.2, Part 2
Appeal: due on 16 June 2021 at Krasnodar Regional Court
Detention centre address: 353905, Krasnodarskiy kray, g. Novorossiysk, ul. Parkhomenko 33, FKU Sledstvenniy izolyator No. 3 UFSIN Rossii po Krasnodarskomu krayu

- Krasnoyarsk Region
Railway District Court, Krasnoyarsk
3 June 2021
2) Andrey Garafetanovich Stupnikov (born 17 September 1973) - 6 years
Criminal Code Article: 282.2, Part 1
Appeal: unknown
Detention centre address: 660075, Krasnoyarskiy kray, g. Krasnoyarsk, ul. Respubliki 72, FKU Sledstvenniy izolyator No. 1 UFSIN Rossii po Krasnoyarskomu krayu

- Kursk Region

Promyshlenny District Court, Kursk
3 June 2021
3) Andrey Leonidovich Andreyev (born 12 October 1976) - 4 years and 6 months;
Criminal Code: Article 282.2, Part 1
4) Andrey Vladimirovich Ryshkov (born 6 May 1987) - 3 years;
5) Artyom Babkenovich Bagratyan (born 9 May 1972) - 2 years and 6 months;
6) Alevtina Mikhailovna Bagratyan (born 25 July 1977) - 2 years;
Criminal Code Article: 282.2, Part 2
Tried alongside Aleksandr Vospitanyuk, who received a two-year suspended sentence
Appeal: unknown
Detention centre address: 305016, Kurskaya oblast, g. Kursk, ul. Pirogova 1, FKU Sledstvenniy izolyator No. 1 UFSIN Rossii po Kurskoy oblasti (for Andreyev, Ryshkov, and Artyom Bagratyan).

Rustam Seidkuliyev
Jehovah's Witnesses
Alevtina Bagratyan will remain under house arrest until the ruling comes into force.

- Saratov Region

Lenin District Court, Saratov
20 May 2021
7) Rustam Atayevich Seidkuliyev (born 17 July 1977) - 2 years and 6 months, plus 1 year of restrictions on freedom
Criminal Code Article: 282.2, Part 2
Appeal: unknown
Detention centre address: unknown

DETAINED AWAITING POSSIBLE DEPORTATION

- Khabarovsk Region

Blagoveshchensk City Court
19 June 2017
1) Yevgeny Lvovich Kim (Muslim - born 5 October 1974) - 3 years and 9 months
Criminal Code Articles: 282.2, Part 1, and 282, Part 1
Tortured while in pre-trial detention in 2015; no suspect torturer known to have been arrested or put on criminal trial. Immediately Kim was released deprived of Russian citizenship and left stateless.

Railway District Court, Khabarovsk
10 April 2019
Fined under Administrative Code Article 18.8, Part 1 for failing to have documentation and ordered deported.
Foreigners' detention centre address: 680003 Khabarovsky kray, g. Khabarovsk, ul. Repina 3, Tsentr vremennogo soderzhaniya inostrannikh grazhdan

On 28 October 2020, Kim applied unsuccessfully for cancellation of his criminal record (snyatiye sudimosti). On 10 November 2020, the Institute for Law and Public Policy lodged an appeal on Kim's behalf at the Constitutional Court, questioning the constitutionality of Administrative Code Article 18.8, Part 1.1 ("Violation by a foreign citizen or stateless person of the residence regime of the Russian Federation, expressed in the absence of documents confirming the right to reside in the Russian Federation") and Article 3.10, Part 5, which gives judges the right to detain people before deportation but does not impose any time limit. This was also unsuccessful.

[UPDATE 24 July 2021: The detention centre released Kim on 31 May 2021, but his legal position remains uncertain.]

SENTENCED TO IMPRISONMENT BUT RELEASED BECAUSE OF TIME IN DETENTION

- Bryansk Region

Novozybkov City Court
3 September 2020
1) Vladimir Aleksandrovich Khokhlov (born 9 April 1977) - 1 year and 3 months'; 1 year's restrictions on freedom
2) Tatyana Viktorovna Shamsheva (born 7 June 1977) - 1 year; 6 months' restrictions on freedom
3) Olga Sergeyevna Silayeva (born 11 May 1988) - 1 year; 6 months' restrictions on freedom
4) Eduard Vladimirovich Zhinzhikov (born 9 November 1971) - 1 year and 3 months; 1 year's restrictions on freedom
Criminal Code Articles: 282.2, Part 1, 282.3 Part 1 (Khokhlov and Zhinzhikov); 282.2, Part 2 (Shamsheva and Silayeva)
Appeal: unsuccessful - 28 October 2020, Bryansk Regional Court

None of the four has been imprisoned, as the two women had already served 245 days and the two men 316 days in detention before conviction. They did, however, remain subject to the restrictions on freedom imposed by the judge.

- Krasnodar Region

Khostinsky District Court, Sochi
18 December 2020
5) Nikolay Nikolayevich Kuzichkin (born 28 February 1951) - 1 year and 1 month;
6) Vyacheslav Alekseyevich Popov (born 19 September 1974) - 1 year and 10 months
Criminal Code Article: 282.2, Part 1
Appeal: none

Kuzichkin was released from the courtroom, as he had already served 197 days in detention and 240 days under house arrest. Popov remained in detention for another 11 days after conviction, by which time he had spent a total of 446 days in detention.

DEPORTED FOLLOWING IMPRISONMENT

Feliks Makhammadiyev and his wife Yevgeniya Lagunova, reunited at Tashkent Railway Station, Uzbekistan, 21 January 2021
Jehovah's Witnesses
- Saratov Region

Lenin District Court, Saratov
19 September 2019
1) Konstantin Viktorovich Bazhenov (born 10 May 1975) - 3 years and 6 months
2) Feliks Khasanovich Makhammadiyev (born 14 December 1984) - 3 years
Criminal Code Article: 282.2, Part 1
Appeal: unsuccessful - 20 December 2019, Saratov Regional Court
Tried alongside Aleksey Budenchuk, Gennady German, Roman Gridasov, and Aleksey Miretsky.
Bazhenov was released early from Labour Camp No. 3 in Dmitrovgrad (Ulyanovsk Region) on 5 May 2021 and sent to a migration detention centre - deported to Ukraine on 19 May 2021.

(Bazhenov in Saratov should not be confused with fellow Jehovah's Witness Konstantin Aleksandrovich Bazhenov from Kamchatka, given a two-year suspended sentence in September 2020.)

Makhammadiyev was released from Labour Camp No. 1 in Orenburg on 31 December 2020 at the end of his sentence and sent to a migration detention centre - deported to Uzbekistan on 21 January 2021.

(END)

Full reports on freedom of thought, conscience and belief in Russia

For more background see Forum 18's survey of the general state of freedom of religion and belief in Russia, as well as Forum 18's survey of the dramatic decline in this freedom related to Russia's Extremism Law

A personal commentary by Alexander Verkhovsky, Director of the SOVA Center for Information and Analysis https://www.sova-center.ru, about the systemic problems of Russian anti-extremism legislation

Forum 18's compilation of Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) freedom of religion or belief commitments

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