Sergey Sushilnikov and his wife, March 2023

Unjust Verdicts

Court of Appeal in Kemerovo Upheld the 6-year Suspended Sentence for Sergey Sushilnikov, a Veteran of Labor

Kemerovo Region

On March 29, 2023, the Kemerovo Regional Court upheld the main part of the sentence for 65-year-old Sergey Sushilnikov - 6-year suspended sentence. At the same time, a number of additional restrictions were removed from the verdict, in particular, a ban on publishing on the Internet and attending public events.

“The court did not determine any consequences of my actions aimed at the peaceful practice of my faith in accordance with the Bible commandments, and did not mention them in the verdict,” Sushilnikov emphasized at the appeal hearing. "The verdict does not include quotations of extremist statements, nor the dates, times and places of when they were made. On the contrary, it indicates that ... there are no such statements”.

The prosecution of Sushilnikov for his faith began in the summer of 2021. The Investigative Committee accused the believer of continuing the activity of a liquidated religious organization and initiated a case under Part 1 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. At the court hearings, it became clear that the investigation was referring to the peaceful holding of meetings for worship which are not prohibited on the territory of the Russian Federation.

Sergey Sushilnikov feels great support from his fellow believers and his wife, Tatyana, who is also a defendant in a criminal case for her faith. The believer said: “When I left the courtroom after the hearings, my friends applauded me. Almost everyone came up to shake my hand, to hug me - from such warmth, I was moved to tears. My wife was outside at the time; as a witness in the case, she was not allowed into the courtroom. She is given flowers, sweets, drawings from children. At this moment, I can’t support her, but there are so many friends here.” This is what Tatyana says about her husband: “He did not lose his confidence, firmness and did not allow despair to take over. He didn’t think about what awaited him, he thought about the [welfare] of others.”

In the Kemerovo Region, 17 Jehovah's Witnesses became defendants in criminal cases for their faith. Seven have already been sentenced to various terms. Andrey Vlasov, a believer with a disability, continues to serve his sentence in a penal colony in violation of the law. Judges, contrary to the decision of the ECHR and the explanations of the Plenum of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, issue verdicts against Jehovah's Witnesses. Vyacheslav Lebedev, Chairman of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, pointed out: “Higher standards for the protection of the constitutional rights of citizens are provided with clarifications... that actions that do not contain signs of extremism and consist solely in the exercise of the right to freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, including through the practice of of religious rites and ceremonies, do not constitute a crime."

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.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Kemerovo Region
Locality:
Novokuznetsk
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:
12102320010000328
Initiated:
June 3, 2021
Current case stage:
the verdict entered into force
Investigating:
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