Case of Reyno-Chernyshova in Birobidzhan

Case History

A civilian resident of Birobidzhan, Yelena Reyno-Chernyshova, was accused of a serious crime - extremism - on the basis of religion. In September 2019, the investigative department of the FSB of Russia for the Jewish Autonomous Region opened a criminal case against her for her faith under Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. According to the investigation, Yelena “committed deliberate actions related to the resumption and continuation of the activities of the local religious organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the city of Birobidzhan.” The case was considered by the Deputy Chairman of the Birobidzhan District Court Vladimir Mikhalev. In February 2021, the believer was found guilty and fined. Two months later, the Court of Appeal toughened the sentence to 2.5 years of probation. On June 21, 2022, the believer’s suspended sentence was canceled ahead of schedule, and her criminal record was cleared.

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    September 25, 2019

    Senior Lieutenant of Justice D. Yankin, investigator of the Investigative Department of the Federal Security Service of Russia for the Jewish Autonomous Region, initiates a criminal case for faith under Article 282.2 (2) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation against Elena Reyno-Chernyshova. The case is separated from the case file against Alam Aliyev.

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    October 1, 2019

    The investigation chooses a preventive measure for Reyno-Chernyshova in the form of a written undertaking not to leave and proper behavior.

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    February 5, 2020

    The case proceeds to the stage of familiarization of the accused with the case materials in accordance with Article 217 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Russian Federation.

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    March 3, 2020

    The Reyno-Chernyshova case was transferred to the Birobidzhan District Court of the Jewish Autonomous Region (32 Pionerskaya Street). Referee: Vladimir Mikhalev.

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    April 13, 2020

    The preliminary hearing in the court of first instance was postponed.

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    April 28, 2020

    A preliminary hearing in the Reyno-Chernyshova case is scheduled for May 7. Due to the epidemiological situation in the country, she needs to have a mask and gloves with her.

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    May 6, 2020

    The preliminary hearing in the case of Reyno-Chernyshova has been postponed indefinitely due to the epidemiological situation in the country.

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    October 19, 2020

    Hearings on the merits begin in the Birobidzhan District Court of the Jewish Autonomous Region.

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    January 14, 2021

    Yelena Reyno-Chernyshova petitions for the examination of the evidence of the defense, the inclusion of the resolution of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and the questioning of witnesses. Judge Vladimir Mikhalev satisfies and attaches all motions and applications of the defense.

    Talking about what happened at the meetings of Jehovah's Witnesses, Elena shows and comments on three videos. Then she reads out a letter that she sent to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and some of the attached evidence.

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    January 20, 2021

    A defense witness who has known the defendant's family for more than 15 years is being questioned. He testifies that he has never heard extremist appeals from Yelena Reyno-Chernyshova. According to him, Yelena is a cheerful and sociable person, always ready to help people regardless of their religion and distinguished by decent behavior and speech. A witness for the defense, who does not share the convictions of Jehovah's Witnesses, notes that while working in a penal colony, he saw how convicted criminals changed, starting to study the Bible there, and were released as completely different people.

    Yelena reads out her written notes, as well as the speech of lawyer Omelchenko. It is clear from the speech that not all lawyers in Russia are incorrectly applying anti-extremist legislation. Further, the defendant refers to the response of the President of the Russian Federation to his letter and to the direct line, where the president said that in Russia "there were no repressions for religious reasons ... There was no selective persecution for any particular religion." At the same time, Jehovah's Witnesses are now being persecuted throughout the country for their religious beliefs, not for crimes.

    After 8 court hearings on the merits, the judge sets the date of the final stage of the trial, the debate, on January 29.

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    January 29, 2021 Prosecutor requested punishment

    Judge Vladimir Mikhalev grants the prosecutor's request to resume the judicial investigation.

    At the next hearing, it is planned to interrogate another prosecution witness and debate the parties.

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    February 4, 2021 Prosecutor requested punishment

    A witness whose appearance the prosecutor insists on appearing does not appear in court. The debate is adjourned to 17 February 2021.

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    February 17, 2021 Prosecutor requested punishment Final statement First Instance Sentence

    Referee: Vladimir Mikhalev. Birobidzhan District Court of the Jewish Autonomous Region (Birobidzhan, Pionerskaya St., 32).

    Speaking in the debate, the prosecutor asks for a sentence of 4 years in prison.

    The believer addresses the court with the last word.

    The court announces the verdict: to find Yelena Reyno-Chernyshova guilty under Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (participation in the activities of a banned organization), to impose a fine of 10,000 rubles.

    The verdict can be appealed, it has not entered into force.

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    April 22, 2021 Court of Appeal

    The court of the Jewish Autonomous Region refuses to satisfy the appeal of Yelena Reyno-Chernyshova, but satisfies the appeal of the prosecutor. The sentence was toughened: instead of a fine of 10,000 rubles, the believer was sentenced to 2.5 years of suspended imprisonment and 1 year of restriction of freedom.

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    June 21, 2022

    The judge of the Birobidzhan District Court, Vasilina Bezotecheskikh, cancels the suspended sentence and removes the criminal record from Elena Reyno-Chernyshova, satisfying the petition of the head of the penitentiary inspectorate for the Jewish Autonomous Region, Daria Dushutina.

    The court motivates its decision by the fact that the believer has served more than half of the probationary period, the additional punishment in the form of restriction of liberty has also been served in full, Yelena did not violate the imposed restrictions and has a positive response from the inspection.