Sergey Sushilnikov with his wife near the Kuznetsk District Court of Novokuznetsk, June 2022

Unjust Verdicts

A Court in the Kemerovo Region Gave a Veteran of Labor a 6-Year Suspended Sentence For Reading the Bible With Friends

Kemerovo Region

On January 24, 2023, Anton Iordan, judge of the Kuznetsk District Court of Novokuznetsk (Kemerovo Region) found the 65-year-old guilty of extremism because of his religious views.

Sergey Sushilnikov and his wife have been living in Novokuznetsk for over 40 years. During this time, he repeatedly received certificates of honor and awards from the city administration and his employers. He has the title of veteran of labor

In the summer of 2021, the Investigative Committee initiated a criminal case against Sergey for his faith. On June 8, OMON officers with machine guns, wearing masks and bulletproof vests broke into the apartment of the Sushilnikov couple. Shouting "Everyone lie down on the floor!" they knocked Sergey down, and pressed his wife against the wall.

The believer does not admit guilt. In court, he told a story that happened to his 6-year-old grandson. “Once my grandson was walking with his friend in the playground, and they found a wallet with money. The friend immediately thouhgt what to do — divide the money between themselves. But my grandson said that Jehovah does not like those who take what is not theirs. And they returned the wallet to the owner. So can people whose children behave this way, do something bad to others?” he asked rhetorically.

About 120 people went to the district court building to support Sergey Sushilnikov. During the closing arguments, the believer and his lawyer reiterated that the denomination of Jehovah's Witnesses is not prohibited in Russia; in the case there is no damage caused, none of the witnesses confirmed the guilt of the defendant, there is no extremist literature and the expert study did not confirm any extremist activity.

Since July 2018, already 16 people have been prosecuted for their faith in the Kemerovo Region. The European Court of Human Rights, in its judgment on the prosecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, reiterates: “… only religious statements and actions involving or calling for violence, hatred or discrimination may warrant suppression as being 'extremist' […] The courts did not identify any word, deed or action by the applicants which would be motivated or tainted by violence, hatred or discrimination against others”.

Sushilnikov case in Novokuznetsk

Case History
During 2019 and 2020, the FSB monitored the telephone conversations of believers from/to Novokuznetsk and made audio and video recordings of meetings for worship. In June 2021, the Investigative Committee initiated a criminal case against a veteran of labor, Sergey Sushilnikov. The peaceful believer was accused of continuing the activity of the local religious organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses and having conversations “in order to promote the activity of this banned organization”. His apartment was searched, during which time the law enforcement officers used force against Sergey and his wife and damaged their property. The believer was made to sign an agreement to appear if summoned, and later – a recognizance agreement. In July 2021, he was added to the Rosfinmonitoring list of extremists and his accounts were blocked. Sushilnikov’s criminal case went to court in February 2022. After 11 months, the believer was given a 6-year suspended sentence. The court of appeal upheld this decision.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Kemerovo Region
Suspected of:
According to the investigation, he "deliberately organized the continuation of the activities of the Novokuznetsk LRO, in respect of which the court made a final decision on liquidation in connection with the implementation of extremist activities."
Court case number:
June 3, 2021
Current case stage:
the verdict entered into force
Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Kemerovo Region - Kuzbass
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
1-7/2023 (1-108/2022; 1-865/2021)
Court of First Instance:
Кузнецкий районный суд г. Новокузнецка Кемеровской области
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Антон Иордан
Case History