The Case of Kuznetsov and Others in Nevinnomyssk

Case History

In November 2018, mass searches took place in Nevinnomyssk. A year later, the Investigative Committee opened criminal cases under two “extremist” articles against Anatoly Boyko, Yevgenia Akhrameeva, Georgy and Tatyana Parfentyev, Nadezhda Konkova, Sergey Kuznetsov, Karina Sahakyan and Rimma Vashchenko (Rimma died under investigation at the age of 90). In May 2022, the investigator stopped the criminal prosecution against everyone except Sergey Kuznetsov, who is visually impaired, has hearing problems and has difficulty moving. In August 2022, the case went to court. After 5 months, the case was transferred to another judge. The prosecution was based on the testimony of a secret witness. In April 2023, the court sentenced the believer to 6 years of suspended imprisonment. In the summer of the same year, the appeal upheld the verdict. Shortly thereafter, Georgy Parfentiev died at the age of 76.

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    November 21, 2018

    Mass searches in the homes of believers from Nevinnomyss, followed by interrogations lasting several hours. Security forces seize phones, books, computers, other electronic devices and flash drives. One of the victims of the search reports the loss of money.

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    28 - 29.01.2019

    Sergey Kuznetsov, Nadezhda Konkova, Karina Sahakyan, Anatoly Boyko were summoned for interrogation.

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    March 18, 2019

    Georgy and Tatyana Parfentiev were interrogated.

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    July 9, 2019

    Search and interrogation of Vahan Mkhitaryan. The security forces insult him and beat him for refusing to cooperate with the investigation.

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    December 12, 2019

    Deputy Head of the Investigation Department for Nevinnomyssk Sabadash V.V. initiates a criminal case against 60-year-old Sergey Kuznetsov under Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. Rimma Vashchenko, Anatoliy Boyko, Georgiy and Tatyana Parfentyev, Evgenia Akhrameeva, Nadezhda Konkova and Karina Sahakyan are charged under Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

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    January 3, 2020
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    June 18, 2020

    Rosfinmonitoring adds to the list of persons in respect of whom there is evidence of involvement in extremist activities or terrorism, the data of all eight defendants in the criminal case. There are restrictions on access to their bank accounts.

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    August 10, 2020

    Searches are being conducted in the homes of two innocent believers. These operational-search measures, the so-called "ORM examination", were authorized by the judge of the Stavropol Regional Court Nikolai Kramchinin. They are carried out by employees of the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for the Stavropol Territory. In one of the cases, during the search, the witness becomes ill, she is taken out into the street, and at that moment the security forces plant 7 books included in the Federal List of Extremist Literature.

    It becomes known that believers are being checked for involvement in the commission of a crime under Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

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    January 14, 2021

    It becomes known about the death of Rimma Vashchenko, one of the eight defendants in the criminal case against believers in the city of Nevinnomyssk. She was added to the Rosfinmonitoring list of extremists on June 18, 2020, shortly before her 90th birthday. Since then, she has officially been the oldest "extremist" in Russia. Now the oldest extremist in Russia is 85-year-oldYelena Zaishchuk , a Jehovah's Witness from Vladivostok, who has been under recognizance agreement for more than 2.5 years.

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    May 31, 2022

    The criminal prosecution against seven believers is terminated: Nadezhda Konkova, Anatoliy Boyko, Georgy and Tatiana Parfentiev, Evgenia Akhrameyeva and Karina Sahakyan, as well as the late Rimma Vashchenko. All charges against them have been dropped.

    Sergey Kuznetsov remains a defendant in the case. They take a written undertaking not to leave the place.

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    August 5, 2022

    The case against Sergey Kuznetsov is submitted to the Nevinnomyssk City Court of the Stavropol Territory. He is appointed to judge Andriy Trachuk.

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    September 7, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The Nevinnomyssk City Court begins consideration of the criminal case against Sergey Kuznetsov. At least 30 people come to the courthouse to support the believer, but only 8 are allowed in by the court.

    The court rejects the petition of the defense for the admission of more than 8 listeners. The lawyer also applies for familiarization with the materials of the case, the court satisfies it.

    Further, the indictment and the attitude of the defense counsel to it are announced. Sergey does not admit his guilt, he says: "A Christian and an extremist are two completely incompatible concepts. You can't be both a Christian and an extremist at the same time."

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    October 4, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Interrogation of prosecution witnesses. The first witness admits that he acted on the orders of the FSB. All the literature that was brought to him for personal study, the witness handed over to the authorities. He says that he does not know whether this literature was recognized as extremist, what kind of publications they were, or what year of release, because "he did not delve into the contents."

    Another witness tells the court that she never heard the defendant call for violence, because "no violence is acceptable for Jehovah's Witnesses."

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    October 18, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The third witness for the prosecution tells his conclusions, which became the basis for operational measures against Kuznetsov. According to him, the defendant "organized a cell" for the study of the Bible: "conducted individual training," as well as religious meetings "according to standard plans." He explains that "the meeting began with a prayer, an introductory speech, watching a series of videos, asking questions."

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    October 25, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    A secret witness who collaborated with the FSB, under the pseudonym Sidorov A.N., is being interrogated.

    According to Sidorov, Sergey Kuznetsov talked with him on biblical topics, in particular, he shared with him a printed article on the topic of family happiness.

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    November 1, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Interrogation of a witness. Answering questions from the prosecutor and the judge, he uses Article 51 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

    Further, the materials of the case are announced - 6 volumes.

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    December 27, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The judge refuses to admit to the case the decision of the European Court of Human Rights regarding Jehovah's Witnesses.

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    January 30, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The composition of the court is changing, now the case will be considered by judge Yuri Vaskin. In this regard, the consideration of materials begins from the beginning. In the case, along with the defenders by agreement, a lawyer by appointment participates, the challenge of which the judge does not satisfy.

    The prosecutor reads out the indictment. Lawyers express an attitude. The defendant reports his disagreement with the charges.

    Despite the objection of the defense, the protocol of the interrogation of the deceased Rimma Vashchenko is announced. It is not possible to confirm or refute her testimony.

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    February 3, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The court examines prosecution witnesses. One of them, an operative, cannot cite facts proving that Sergey Kuznetsov distributed extremist literature. The witness also acknowledges that the worship meetings were not conducted by the LRO, but by a group of believers. According to the operative, the investigation did not aim to delve into the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation. From his words, it becomes known that the investigation uses the testimony of a classified witness.

    The second witness for the prosecution, a woman who had attended meetings of Jehovah's Witnesses in the past, is being questioned. She speaks positively about believers. The prosecutor requests the disclosure of the record of her previous interrogation, which repeatedly mentions the LRO. The defense explains to the witness the difference between the LRO and religion, after which the woman declares that she did not testify about the legal entity.

    The defense draws the court's attention to the distortions that were made by the investigator in the record of the interrogation of the witness. The judge refuses to take this into account.

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    February 7 — 9, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The case materials are announced, the protocols of interrogations of witnesses who did not appear, including the secret witness "Sidorov", are read out. The prosecutor cites the results of a phonoscopic examination containing transcripts of Bible studies, which speak of the practical benefits of the Bible, including in family life.

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    March 30, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The study of the case materials continues. The contents of volumes 1, 10, 12, 28--30 are announced.

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    April 10, 2023 Prosecutor requested punishment

    The prosecutor requests 8 years of suspended imprisonment for Sergey Kuznetsov with a probationary period of 4 years.

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    April 13, 2023 Closing arguments for the defense

    Sergey Kuznetsov's lawyer appears in court. She recalls the reason for the ban on legal entities of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia: "From the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation of 20.04.2017 in the case of the liquidation of Russian legal entities of Jehovah's Witnesses, it follows that the basis for its issuance was the incriminated facts of import and mass distribution of materials that were subsequently recognized as extremist, and not the joint confession and dissemination of the faith of Jehovah's Witnesses." Nevertheless, as the lawyer notes, "neither the court nor the defense has been presented with a single fact and evidence" that the defendant committed such actions.

    The Defender draws attention to the clarification of the Plenum of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation dated October 28, 2021. According to it, "if a religious association is recognized as extremist, believers can continue to exercise the right to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, including through individual or joint confession of religion, worship or other religious rites and ceremonies, if they do not contain signs of extremism."

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    April 18, 2023 Final statement

    Sergey Kuznetsov makes his final statement.

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    June 21, 2023
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    July 28, 2023 Elderly

    It becomes known that Georgy Parfentiev died at the age of 77.