In the photo, from left to right: Marat Abdulgalimov, Arsen Abdullaev, Anton Dergalev and Mariya Karpova in the courtroom. September 21, 2020

Unjust Verdicts

A Court in Dagestan Gave Suspended Sentences to Four of Jehovah's Witnesses for "Extremism." They Prayed and Discussed the Bible


On November 25, 2022, Judge Amir Amirov of the Kirovskiy District Court of Makhachkala gave Arsen Abdullaev, Marat Abdulgalimov and Anton Dergalev 6.5-year suspended sentences and gave Mariya Karpova a 6-year suspended sentence. The court considered participation in worship services of Jehovah's Witnesses to be extremism.

In June 2019, the investigative department of the FSB of Russia for the Republic of Dagestan conducted searches of the homes of Jehovah's Witnesses in Makhachkala, Kaspiysk, Kizlyar, and Derbent. According to eyewitnesses, brochures on the list of extremist materials were planted in one apartment. The searches were based on a criminal case initiated in May 2019. Law enforcement officers accused Abdullaev, Dergalev, Abdulgalimov and Karpova of organizing the activities of an extremist organization. Additionally, the men were charged with financing a banned organization, and Mariya was charged with involving others in the organization's activity. All four Jehovah's Witnesses were included on the Rosfinmonitoring list of extremists and terrorists, and their bank accounts were frozen. For some time they could not visit public places or use the telephone.

The believers spent around 1 year in a pre-trial detention center and another 2.5 years—until the verdict was rendered—under house arrest. While Mariya Karpova was in custody, her father died; he was seriously ill. She was not allowed to attend the funeral. Thousands of letters from Russia and from 30 other countries helped those imprisoned for their faith in pre-trial detention centers to cope with the injustice. Mariya says: “I especially liked letters with photographs. I never felt lonely."

In January 2021, after more than a year and a half of investigation, the case went to court. “Hundreds of people came to the court,” recalls Marat Abdulgalimov, “Many people came from neighboring cities and republics.” Arsen Abdullaev added: “Some traveled 300-400 km just to shake hands with us, hug us and say a few words of encouragement ... I am so proud of my wife, Suat. When we saw each other in court, she did show how hard this was for her.

The prosecutor requested a prison sentence of 7.5 years for Arsen, Marat and Anton and 6.5 years for Mariya, but the court gave only suspended sentences. In addition, the court excluded the charge of involving others in extremist activities from Mariya Karpova's verdict.

The court verdict against the four Makhachkala residents has not yet entered into force. The believers pleaded not guilty to the crimes and have the right to file appeals.

In a July 7, 2022 ruling, the European Court of Human Rights called the criminal persecution of believers in Russia illegal: "The forced liquidation of all religious organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses in the Russian Federation... revealed signs of a policy of intolerance on the part of the Russian authorities to force Jehovah's Witnesses to abandon their faith and to prevent others from joining it" (§ 254).

Case of Abdullaev and Others in Makhachkala

Case History
In the summer of 2019, the homes of local Jehovah’s Witnesses were searched in four cities of Dagestan. Two religious brochures on the list of extremist materials were planted in one of the homes. Prior to this, the FSB initiated a criminal case against Arsen Abdullaev, Anton Dergalev, Marat Abdulgalimov and Mariya Karpova, accusing them of organizing the activities of an extremist organization. Additionally, the three men were charged with financing a banned organization, while the woman was charged with involving others in it. All four were put on the Rosfinmonitoring list of extremists and terrorists. The believers spent 362 days in pre-trial detention, after which they were placed under house arrest. In 2020, the cassation court declared that their detention in a pre-trial detention center for 8 out of 12 months was unlawful. In March 2021, the consideration of the case on the merits began. In November 2022, the court gave Abdullayev, Abdulgalimov and Dergalev 6.5 year suspended sentences and gave Karpova a 6 year suspended sentence.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Suspected of:
According to the investigation “together with others he conducted religious services, so-called ‘meetings’, during which they studied the printed materials of the banned organization ‘Administrative Centre of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia’ with the participation of residents of the Republic of Daghestan”
Court case number:
May 27, 2019
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigative Department of the Directorate of the FSB of Russia for the Republic of Daghestan
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1), 282.3 (1), 282.2 (1.1)
Court case number:
1-5/2022 (1-230/2021)
Кировский районный суд г. Махачкалы
Амиров Амир
Case History