From left to right: Rustam Diarov, Evgeny and Olga Ivanov, Sergey Klikunov

Criminal Investigation and Trial

An Appeal in the City Astrakhan Upheld Prison Sentences for Four Jehovah's Witnesses, Including a Woman

Astrakhan Region

On March 3, 2022, the Astrakhan Regional Court upheld the harsh sentence for Jehovah's Witnesses: 8 years in prison for Yevgeniy Ivanov, Rustam Diarov and Sergey Klikunov, and 3.5 years in prison for Ivanov's wife, Olga.

Four believers were detained and placed in a temporary detention center in June 2020 during mass searches. After that, the men were imprisoned in a pre-trial detention center. Olga Ivanova spent about a year and a half under house arrest, and then waited 4 months for an appeal decision while in a pre-trial detention center.

At the hearings in the first instance - the Trusovsky District Court of Astrakhan - dozens of defense witnesses indicated that extremism was alien to the defendants. The prosecutor, in turn, refused to question 20 prosecution witnesses, which limited the right of believers to a full and objective study of the circumstances of the case.

The prosecution strategy was reduced to proving that the defendants belonged to the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses. At the same time, as stated by the Russia’s Government, religion itself is not prohibited. In reality, the security forces do not distinguish between the constitutional right to freedom of religion and participation in the activities of an organization banned by the court. The believers insist on their innocence and intend to appeal the verdict in cassation, as well as in international instances.

Anna Safronova from Astrakhan, who had previously been involved in the case of Ivanov and others as a witness, was also sent to jail in January 2022 by a harsh court decision only for peaceful religious beliefs — she was sentenced to 6 years in prison.

The persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia causes great resonance in the legal community. The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, the ECHR, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention are just some of the organizations condemning the repression of Jehovah's Witnesses.

Case of Ivanov and Others in Astrakhan

Case History
In June 2020, the investigation in Astrakhan opened a criminal case against Sergey Klikunov, Rustam Diarov, Yevgeniy Ivanov and his wife, Olga under under an article against extremism. A series of searches took place the next day. After that, the four believers were placed in custody. After 3 days, Olga Ivanova was transferred to house arrest. From June 2021, the case against the believers was heard in court. The court sentenced Yevgeniy, Sergey and Rustam to 8 years in a penal colony, and Olga to 3.5 years a penal colony. The court of appeal upheld this decision in February 2022, and 10 months later, the court of cassation even toughened the punishment, adding a ban on the believers from leaving Astrakhan after serving their sentence. In June 2024, Olga Ivanova was released.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Astrakhan Region
Locality:
Astrakhan
Suspected of:
According to the investigation, "they continued to organize meetings, knowingly knowing that its activities were banned ... They carried out propaganda of the superiority of religious teachings over other persons and were engaged in the distribution of extremist literature."
Court case number:
12002120011000010
Initiated:
June 8, 2020
Current case stage:
the verdict entered into force
Investigating:
Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Astrakhan Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1), 282.3 (1), 282.2 (2)
Court case number:
1-201/2021
Court:
Трусовский районный суд г. Астрахани
Judge:
Алексей Сёмин
Case History