Unjust Verdicts

The Сassation Court Upheld an Unprecedented Harsh Sentence Against Anna Safronova, One of Jehovah's Witnesses From Astrakhan, Because of Her Faith<br>

Astrakhan Region

On February 21, 2023, the Fourth Court of Cassation of General Jurisdiction in the city of Krasnodar upheld the ruling of the appellate court and the sentence—six years of imprisonment—against 57-year-old Anna Safronova.

In January 2022, the Trusovsky District Court of Astrakhan found Anna Safronova guilty of extremism for her faith in Jehovah God. According to the court, her actions in the joint profession of faith served as the grounds:  participation in religious services where prayers were said, religious songs were sung, and the Bible was read. The prosecution did not provide any evidence of extremist statements or calls for violence, hostility or the overthrow of the constitutional order of the government. In April, the Astrakhan Regional Court upheld this verdict.

In two years of being persecuted for her faith, Anna Safronova experienced two searches, house arrest and imprisonment in a temporary detention facility and a pre-trial detention center. She has been in a penal colony for about a year already. Despite the harsh sentence and separation from her 82-year-old mother, her son and her friends, Anna has not lost her composure and even encourages her loved ones  through her letters and poetry and during their prison visits.

With respect to Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, the ECHR stated in its decision of June 7, 2022: “By holding the applicants criminally liable, simply for continuing religious services, the Russian authorities imposed a disproportionate and unjustifiable burden on the exercise of their freedom of religion and association.” (§ 260)

The case of Safronova in Astrakhan

Case History
In June 2020, Anna Safronova’s apartment was searched, and she became a witness in a case against four believers from Astrakhan. A year later, the investigation initiated a criminal case against the believer herself, accusing her of participating in the activities of an extremist organization and financing it. She was included on the Rosfinmonitoring list of extremists, and her bank accounts were blocked. Soon after, the apartment, where Anna’s mother, who is over 80, also lived, was searched again. Safronova was placed under house arrest. In November 2021, her case went to court, and by the end of January 2022, Anna was sentenced to six years in a penal colony, which was an unprecedented harsh sentence for women who are Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. This is exactly what the prosecutor requested. In April 2022, the Astrakhan Regional Court, and later the cassation court, approved this verdict.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Astrakhan Region
Suspected of:
According to the investigation, she "personally took part in online meetings ... in the form of collective religious worship, sequential singing of songs and prayers to Jehovah God, studying articles and watching videos."
Court case number:
May 28, 2021
Current case stage:
the verdict entered into force
Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Astrakhan Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (2), 282.3 (1)
Court case number:
1-5/2022 (1-306/2021)
Трусовский районный суд г. Астрахани
Александр Лепский
Case History