The case of Safronova in Astrakhan

Case History

In June 2020, Anna Safronova’s apartment was searched, and she became a witness in a case against four believers from Astrakhan. A year later, the investigation initiated a criminal case against the believer herself, accusing her of participating in the activities of an extremist organization and financing it. She was included on the Rosfinmonitoring list of extremists, and her bank accounts were blocked. Soon after, the apartment, where Anna’s mother, who is over 80, also lived, was searched again. Safronova was placed under house arrest. In November 2021, her case went to court, and by the end of January 2022, Anna was sentenced to six years in a penal colony, which was an unprecedented harsh sentence for women who are Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. This is exactly what the prosecutor requested. In April 2022, the Astrakhan Regional Court, and later the cassation court, approved this verdict.

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    May 28, 2021

    Nikolay Banko, an investigator for particularly important cases of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Astrakhan Region, initiates a criminal case against 55-year-old Anna Safronova under Part 2 of Article 282.2 and Part 1 of Article 282.3 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. She is suspected of financing extremist activities and participating in worship services together with other believers, the case against whom was initiated a year earlier.

    According to investigators, the woman, "realizing her criminal intent," participated in online religious meetings held with the performance of songs and prayers to Jehovah God. The investigator also believes that the believer "controlled the receipt of funds in the form of donations from participants and parishioners of the congregation."

    Anna Safronova is included in the list of extremists of Rosfinmonitoring, which means blocking all her bank accounts.

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    June 2, 2021

    From 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., Anna Safronova and her 81-year-old mother are searched: the security forces even check the inspection hatches in the bathroom, as well as air ducts. A year ago, the woman was already searched with the seizure of all electronic devices. This time, electronic equipment is again seized from her, including a laptop that was recently returned after the first search.

    Anna was taken to the building of the Investigative Committee and later placed in a temporary detention facility in the city of Astrakhan.

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    June 3, 2021

    The prosecutor asks to send Anna Safronova under house arrest, citing "the severity of the suspicion that has arisen." Judge of the Kirovsky District Court of Astrakhan Fradilya Khairutdinova satisfies the prosecutor's request. Anna Safronova is forbidden to leave her place of residence, communicate with witnesses and other suspects, and use any means of communication. She is allowed daily walks from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

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    November 18, 2021 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The defense is requesting an adjournment of the hearing in order to fully familiarize itself with the case. Judge Aleksandr Lepsky partially satisfies the petition, giving only one instead of the four requested weeks.

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    November 25, 2021

    The hearing in the case of Anna Safronova is underway. By agreement, the defender does not appear at the hearing due to illness. She notifies the court of her failure to appear in advance by e-mail. The judge shall provide the defendant with an appointed lawyer. Despite Anna Safronova's request to postpone the hearing, the court continues the hearing.

    The prosecutor reads out the charge, after which the defendant expresses her attitude to the charge. Summing up, Anna Safronova tells the judge: "You, as a lawyer and as a person, will see the difference between Christian service to God, which I am determined to carry out all my life, and extremism, which is completely alien to me."

    A witness is being questioned who says that she does not know the face of the defendant and that she has not previously met anyone present in the courtroom. The Witness notes: "I am generally grateful to Jehovah's Witnesses for introducing me to the Bible. They are very good people."

    Another witness informs the court that good people gathered at the services of Jehovah's Witnesses, and that no one forced her to do anything.

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    December 2, 2021

    The court rejects the challenges that the defendant makes to the judge, who repeatedly and grossly violates the right to defense and a fair trial, and to the lawyer appointed.

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    December 8, 2021
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    January 21, 2022 Prosecutor requested punishment

    The prosecutor requests a punishment for the believer in the form of 6 years in a general regime colony.

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    January 24, 2022
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    January 25, 2022 First Instance Sentence

    Aleksandr Lepsky, judge of the Trusovsky District Court of the city of Astrakhan, convicts Anna Safronova: 6 years of imprisonment in a general regime colony.

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    January 26, 2022
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    February 10, 2022

    It becomes known that Anna Safronova is in pre-trial detention center No. 2 in the Astrakhan region in the city of Narimanov.

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    April 14, 2022

    A panel of judges of the Astrakhan Regional Court, chaired by Nikolai Marevsky, upholds the sentence of Anna Safronova - 6 years in prison for discussing the Bible.

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    April 29, 2022

    It becomes known that Anna Safronova, convicted for her faith, has been transferred from pre-trial detention center No. 2 in Narimanov to pre-trial detention center No. 1 in Makhachkala, where the believer will stay temporarily until she arrives at the place of serving her sentence.

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    August 19, 2022 Life in prison

    The lawyer visits Anna Safronova in correctional colony No. 7 in the city of Zelenokumsk (Stavropol Territory), where the believer has been for 2 months. Long-term transfer to the penal colony through pre-trial detention centers in different cities was not easy for her.

    Anna is kept in an old barracks. She tries to maintain respectful relations with other convicts and tries to maintain a positive attitude. The believer eats in the prison canteen.

    Safronova took advantage of the right to refuse to work in the colony, as she is retired. In the daytime, Anna, on her own initiative, cleans the barracks.

    When the woman's eyesight deteriorated, she was given glasses. She also has the necessary medicines. A believer is pleased when letters give her personal attention and support her. Mother and son came to Anna for a long-term date.

    Safronova has a Bible. From time to time, she sees Olga Ivanova - believers serve their sentences in the same colony, but in different buildings.

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    August 31, 2022 Life in prison

    It becomes known that in early July, Anna Safronova was taken to the place of serving her sentence - to Correctional Colony No. 7 in the Stavropol Territory. She receives so many letters that she does not have time to read and answer everything.

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    February 16, 2023
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    August 9, 2023 Life in prison Letters

    There are about 80 people in the detachment where Anna Safronova is kept. She has the opportunity to read the Bible. For 1.5 years of imprisonment, Anna received more than 7000 letters of support from different countries.

    The believer values communication with family and friends by phone, in letters and during visits.

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    July 11, 2024 Life in prison Letters Medical treatment within the Federal Penitentiary Service

    Anna has the opportunity to use the refrigerator and microwave, as well as visit the sauna. The believer's relationship with the administration is neutral. Her cellmates treat her with respect, calling her "Aunt Anya".

    Some time ago, after three hours of standing on the parade ground, Anna lost consciousness. At the infirmary, she regained consciousness, after which she was diagnosed with a viral infection and prescribed bed rest. She also has difficulty sleeping due to seizures, but she does not always receive the necessary medical care and it can be difficult to convince the staff that it is necessary to provide her with medication from her personal supply.

    Anna regularly receives a pension, money is withdrawn from her card for food and accommodation in the colony.

    The believer has the Bible in the Synodal translation, and she also regularly receives letters of support.

    During short visits, Anna is visited by family and friends. Only the son and mother of the believer are allowed for long visits (1 time every 2 months).