Case of Malevaniy and Others in Spassk-Dalny

Case History

In the fall of 2018, searches were carried out in Spassk-Dalny at the homes of Dmitry Malevany, Alexei Trofimov, Olga Panyuta, Olga Opaleva and their fellow believers. The reason for the persecution of civilians was their faith in Jehovah God. The believers were accused of organizing the activities of an extremist organization and involving others in it. The case is based on the testimony of secret witnesses “Sidorova” and “Ivanova”, who monitored the believers on instructions from the FSB. On the eve of the search, Olga Opaleva suffered a heart attack, and later, on the way to court, a stroke. The four believers spent a year under house arrest, and since November 2019 they have been under a recognizance agreement. In December 2019, the case went to court. In February 2023, the believers were sentenced: Dmitry Malevanoy was given 7 years in a penal colony, Alexey Trofimov  6.5 years in prison, Olga Panyuta - 4.5 years in prison, and Olga Opaleva - 5 years suspended. The appeal reduced each of these terms by two months, the cassation supported this decision.

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    November 12, 2018

    The Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of Russia for the Primorsky Territory initiates a criminal case for faith under Articles 282.2 (1), 282.2 (1.1); According to the investigation, he illegally organized the activities of the religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses on the territory of the city of Spassk-Dalny (with reference to the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation to liquidate all 396 registered organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses). Innocent victims of law enforcement officers are: Dmitry Malevaniy (born in 1990), Aleksey Trofimov (born in 1959), Olga Opaleva (born in 1952), Olga Panyuta (born in 1959).

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    November 25, 2018

    In the city of Spassk-Dalny (Primorsky Territory), a wave of searches is taking place in the homes of citizens. Five people were detained and sent to a detention center. When the security forces rang the doorbell of 66-year-old Olga Opaleva, she felt bad. Without waiting for the answer of the landlady, the security forces cut down the door and find her unable to answer questions. An ambulance is called for her. Later, doctors diagnose a microstroke. Nevertheless, the security forces detain Olga Opaleva and place her in an isolation ward along with other believers.

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    November 27, 2018

    The court chooses a measure of restraint in the form of house arrest for 28-year-old Dmitry Malevan, 59-year-old Alexei Trofimov, 59-year-old Olga Panyuta and 66-year-old Olga Opaleva. One man was released without a preventive measure.

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    December 6, 2018 Search
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    October 24, 2019
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    November 22, 2019
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    December 16, 2019

    Acting Prosecutor of Spassk-Dalny I. Bykov signs the indictment. According to this document, Aleksey Trofimov and Dmitriy Malevaniy are charged under Part 1 of Article 282.2 (1) (organization of an extremist organization), and Olga Opaleva and Olga Panyuta are charged under Part 1.1. Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (involvement in the activities of an extremist organization).

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    December 17, 2019

    Judge of the Spassky District Court Pavel Bobrovich makes a decision on the appointment of a hearing on the merits of the case. The first court hearing is scheduled for December 30, 2019.

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    December 27, 2019
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    July 24, 2020 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Referee: Pavel Vladimirovich Bobrovich. State prosecutor: I. Bykov. Spassky District Court of Primorsky Krai (Spassk-Dalny, Sovetskaya Street, 75).

    During a closed court hearing, the written materials of the case are examined.

    Dmytro Malevaniy notes that he is accused of using a quote from the Bible at a meeting with friends. Alexei Trofimov says that a meeting with the participation of children cannot be called a meeting of a legal entity, all participants of which must be adults.

    The defense notes that the printed materials seized from Olga Opaleva are not included in the list of extremist materials, and the inspection protocols were drawn up with violations and contain errors, which indicates that in fact the disks were not examined by the investigator.

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    August 20, 2020

    The prosecutor announces the conclusions of forensic psychiatric examinations and proceeds to the examination of material evidence.

    The defense draws attention to the fact that during the service, believers did not give a negative assessment of other persons, but, on the contrary, spoke about the importance of showing tact.

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    September 8, 2020

    The issue is being considered on the petition for an additional medical examination of Olga Opaleva.

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    December 30, 2020

    Due to Olga's illness, the hearing is postponed. A believer is allowed to participate in meetings for no more than 3 hours a week.

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    March 9, 2021

    After a two-month break, the Spassky District Court is holding a regular hearing in the case of Malevaniy and others.

    Video recordings of conversations on religious topics between Olga Opaleva and a secret witness are being viewed.

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    March 16, 2021

    The viewing of video recordings of the MPA, as well as listening to recordings of telephone conversations, continues.

    The defense file a motion to postpone the viewing of the recordings due to Olga's poor health. The judge satisfies him.

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    March 23, 2021

    The defendants comment on the wiretapped telephone conversations of believers. They say that these recordings do not apply to evidence of guilt, since it is impossible to identify the voices of the speakers and it is unclear what these conversations have to do with the charge.

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    April 1, 2021

    Wiretapping of telephone recordings continues. In one of them, Panyuta and Opaleva discuss cooking and recipes, joke a lot. Some of the conversations date back to October 2017, which goes beyond the scope of the charges.

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    April 9, 2021

    Detective R. A. Burtsev is interrogated as a witness. He answers questions hesitantly and in general phrases.

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    June 10, 2021

    Listening to audio recordings of telephone conversations of believers continues. In one of them, the defendant discusses with his mother the biblical doctrine of creation.

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    June 15, 2021

    Court hearings are postponed due to Olga Opaleva's poor health.

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    August 9, 2021
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    August 17, 2021

    At the court session, a video recording of the meeting of believers is viewed.

    A document dated 08/16/2021 is received from the Spassky City Hospital, from which it follows that Olga Opaleva's state of health allows her to participate in court hearings in the afternoon with breaks of 15 minutes every 45 minutes with a break of 1 day. Earlier, according to the forensic medical examination dated 12/24/2020, Olga could participate in court hearings no more than 1 time per week.

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    August 24, 2021

    The defense file a motion to recognize the medical certificate from the Spassky City Hospital on the state of health of Olga Opaleva as inadmissible evidence and petitions for an additional medical examination. The court rejects them and continues to schedule 2-3 hearings a week, despite Olga's poor health.

    At the next meeting, the inspection of the results of the ORM will continue - a video recording of the meeting of the service.

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    September 10, 2021

    At the very beginning of the hearing, the defendant Olga Opaleva becomes ill: her blood pressure rises strongly, as well as her body temperature to 37.6. An ambulance is called for her.

    The meeting was adjourned.

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    September 16, 2021

    During the examination of the physical evidence, fragments of the meeting of believers are listened to, including a speech on the topic "Imitate Jehovah in Mercy."

    Next time, the examination of material evidence will continue, and prosecution witnesses will also be questioned.

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    October 12, 2021

    Prosecution witnesses are being questioned, including two unknown persons who were present during the transfer of video recording equipment to a secret witness before the start of the investigation conducted against Olga Panyuta. A person who was present during the ORM in the home of Aleksey Trofimov was also interrogated. Witnesses confirm that there were no aggressive actions, extremist statements, propaganda of superiority on religious grounds during the conduct of the ORM on the part of the defendants.

    Witnesses will continue to be questioned at the next hearing.

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    November 10 and 17, 2021

    Interrogation of prosecution witnesses. The prosecutor asks them questions about meetings, donations, and specific people, including Dmitriy Malevaniy and Aleksey Trofimov.

    Witnesses answer that they do not remember much, since the prosecutor's questions relate to the events of 2018. They also state that they do not recognize the testimony read out in court, since the investigator put pressure on them and did not allow them to use Article 51 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation. As a result, as the prosecution witnesses explain, the investigator invited them to sign a ready-made template.

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    January 13, 2022

    The hearing is postponed due to the illness of the defendant Olga Opaleva.

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    March 29, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    A woman who has known Jehovah's Witnesses since 1993 is being interrogated. She declares that she does not know about their legal entities, she only knows the creeds. She had never heard believers propagating superiority over other religions. According to the woman, part of her preliminary testimony in the protocol was attributed by the investigator.

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    April 21, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The court is interrogating a woman who can only provide information about the period up to 2017.

    The next witness claims that the defendants did not make extremist calls or involve her in any illegal activity. During the interrogation, the prosecutor asks to read out the written testimony due to discrepancies with her words at the hearing. The woman claims that she signed the protocol without reading.

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    June 30, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The secret witness "Sidorova" is being interrogated. The judge rejects the request for its declassification.

    During interrogation, Sidorova says that she attended services of Jehovah's Witnesses in late 2017 and early 2018 on behalf of the FSB in order to spy on believers. She notes that at these meetings, believers "talked about Jehovah God, read the Bible, and discussed divine topics." She had not heard any calls for violent action against any group on the basis of race, language, nationality or religion.

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    July 19, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The interrogation of the secret witness "Sidorova" continues. Answering the questions of the defendants and their defenders, she says that a friendly atmosphere reigned at the services, the people were pleasant and positive. Exclusively religious issues were discussed, believers sang songs and prayed. The woman confirms that she was not forced to accept this or that point of view, no one recruited her. According to the witness, she was free to leave, she was not forcibly detained at services, she was not forced to pray. She was not anxious. There were no weapons at the services.

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    August 2, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    A secret witness under the pseudonym Ivanova Maria Ivanovna is being interrogated. She expresses her negative attitude towards the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses. The woman regularly attended worship services of believers. She says that she was not called to join any legal organization and that attending worship services was her personal decision.

    The prosecutor declares the disclosure of the testimony of the witness, because during the investigation "Ivanova" claimed that she had collaborated with law enforcement agencies, and in court she repeatedly denies this. After reading out her testimony by the prosecutor, she nevertheless admits the fact of cooperation with the security forces.

    During the hearing, Olga Opaleva becomes ill, an ambulance is called for her.

    Interrogation of the defendants is planned at the next hearings.

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    August 9, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The prosecutor refuses to examine the remaining witnesses. The court proceeds to the interrogation of the defendants.

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    October 19, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    At the request of the defense, the court attaches to the case file scientific conclusions, documents of the judicial practice of the ECHR, opinions of state bodies, decisions of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation, positive judicial practice (acquittal appeal verdicts of the Kamchatka Regional Court and the Sverdlovsk Regional Court).

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    October 26, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The judge considers the motion to declare the evidence of the prosecution inadmissible, but refuses to satisfy it.

    The personal characteristics of Olga Panyuta and Dmitry Malevanyi are attached to the case materials.

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    November 25, 2022 Prosecutor requested punishment

    The prosecutor begins to speak.

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    January 20, 2023 Prosecutor requested punishment

    During the debate, the prosecutor asks for punishment for the believers: 8 years of real imprisonment for Dmitry Malevanyi, 7 years in prison for Aleksey Trofimov, 6 years of suspended sentence for Olga Opaleva and 5 years of suspended imprisonment for Olga Panyuta.

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    January 27, 2023 Final statement

    Dmitry Malevaniy, Aleksey Trofimov and Olga Opaleva address the court with their last word. Olga Panyuta's performance is scheduled for February 8.

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    February 8, 2023 Final statement

    Olga Panyuta speaks with the last word: "At this trial, many said that they believe in God, so this is not a crime."

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    February 10, 2023
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    February 14–15, 2023 Detention center

    Olga Panyuta is alone in the cell. Her general health is satisfactory, but her blood pressure often rises, and she is stressed because of the harsh sentence. She receives letters of support and parcels with the necessary things. She has already had her first date with her son and husband, and she also has the opportunity to make phone calls.

    Aleksey Trofimov is in a cell with two prisoners, relations with them are normal. The believer had a date with his wife and sister, who came from another city to support his family.

    Dmitry Malevaniy also has good relations with his cellmates. He had already had the opportunity to see his wife and mother.

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    March 29, 2023 Detention center

    Olga Panyuta is kept for some time in a cell with another prisoner. According to Olga, the staff of the pre-trial detention center note her positive influence on the cellmate - she has become calmer. Later, the cellmate is transferred to another cell.

    Aleksey Trofimov and Dmitry Malevaniy complain about the poor quality of water in the pre-trial detention center. They have to clean it themselves.

    Olga and Alexei have copies of the Bible, but Dmitry is not given it, justifying this by the fact that he "is here for the Bible." Believers receive a lot of letters — for example, Alexei already has 364 of them. They are especially pleased with the news from their native Spassk-Dalny. All three have the opportunity to make phone calls to their relatives, they are allowed visits.

    The administration of the pre-trial detention center treats believers kindly, relations with cellmates are good.

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    May 24, 2023
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    July 17, 2023 Transfer of a prisoner Detention center

    Dmitry Malevaniy and Aleksey Trofimov are transferred to pre-trial detention center No. 1 in Vladivostok, where the convicts will stay for some time. Then they plan to deliver them to Correctional Colony No. 29 in the city of Bolshoy Kamen (Primorsky Krai).

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    July 19, 2023 Transfer of a prisoner Life in prison

    It becomes known that Dmitry Malevaniy and Aleksey Trofimov were taken to correctional colony No. 29, and Olga Panyuta to correctional colony No. 10. Both institutions are located in Primorsky Krai.

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    September 1, 2023 Transfer of a prisoner Life in prison

    Dmitry Malevaniy is transferred to correctional colony No. 14 in the Khabarovsk Territory. Sergey Afanasyev and Sergey Kardakov from Blagoveshchensk are held in the same colony.

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    September 18, 2023 Life in prison Transfer of a prisoner
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    October 16, 2023 Court of Cassation Art. 282.2 (1) Art. 282.2 (1.1) Believers with a disability Elderly
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    October 19, 2023 Strict conditions of detention Life in prison

    After being admitted to the colony, Olga Panyuta was in a punishment cell for some time. The reason was that she allegedly found a lighter sewn into her bag, while the inspection of things was carried out in her absence.

    Now Olga is in strict conditions of detention. She and 7 other women do not work, are under round-the-clock surveillance and are constantly subjected to degrading searches. Despite the difficult conditions and provocations from her cellmates, Olga remains calm and treats everyone kindly. She is strengthened by visits with relatives, reading the Bible, letters and parcels from friends.

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    October 21, 2023 Life in prison Letters

    Believers have been in IK-14 in the Khabarovsk Territory for a month now. They are kept in a four-story barracks. Recently, the heating was turned on in the colony, the prisoners were given winter clothes.

    Trofimov is the oldest prisoner in this colony, he is a pensioner. According to relatives of Trofimov and Malevanyi, a sense of humor helps believers maintain peaceful relations with other prisoners. The colony staff speak positively of them.

    Alexei and Dmitry receive many letters, but due to censorship, they reach believers with a delay of 1 month.

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    February 6, 2024 Life in prison Elderly Strict conditions of detention Letters

    Olga Panyuta is still being held in strict conditions and in need of dental treatment. During the day, the believer is in a common room with 11 prisoners, and at night everyone is divided into 4-bed cells. A woman is allowed daily walks for 1.5 hours.

    Panyuta has a good relationship with others. Letters of support, as well as visits with her husband, help her maintain a positive attitude.