Unjust Verdicts

A regional court in Astrakhan upheld a harsh sentence against three believers from Akhtubinsk

Astrakhan Region

On August 31, 2023, the Astrakhan Regional Court upheld the sentence against Sergey Korolev, 50, Rinat Kiramov, 36, and Sergey Kosyanenko, 62, and gave them a 7-year suspended sentence. They were accused of singing religious songs and praying together to Jehovah God, which the courts considered as organizing the activity of a banned extremist organization.

In the appeal, the defense stated that the court of first instance committed numerous violations against Kosyanenko, Korolev and Kiramov. The court did not indicate what specific extremist actions they committed, nor did it prove their criminal motives and intent. The evidence presented by the investigation – recordings of telephone conversations, the results of covert surveillance, the witness testimonies – did not confirm that the believers "conspired" for extremist actions.

According to the defense, the believers from Akhtubinsk were convicted as a result of a miscarriage of justice, and "the actual purpose of the court verdict is to violate the rights of the convicts and force them to change their religion or renounce their faith under pain of criminal prosecution." Speaking in court via video conferencing, Sergey Korolev said: "For what and on what grounds was I sentenced to 7 years? I was tried in the absence of corpus delicti only for my faith." Kiramov and Kosyanenko also denied their guilt in extremism. The convicted have the right to appeal against the verdict in cassation procedure.

By its decision, the Astrakhan Regional Court ignored the fact that the RF Supreme Court did not prohibit the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses and the right of individuals to practice it. Other Russian courts operate in a similar way, as a result, more than 700 believers have already been subjected to repressions simply for their religious beliefs.

The Case of Korolev and Others in Akhtubinsk

Case History
On the morning of November 2021, Jehovah’s Witnesses were searched and interrogated in Akhtubinsk and Znamensk (Astrakhan Region). Some of them had previously been under surveillance. The security forces broke down doors, damaged property, and laid both men and women on the floor. The Investigative Committee opened a criminal case against Sergey Korolev, Rinat Kiramov and Sergey Kosyanenko, considering peaceful worship to be extremist activities. The believers were placed in a temporary detention center, and then in a pre-trial detention center, where they spent more than a year and a half. In October 2022, the case went to court. Some witnesses for the prosecution, including the classified one, partially or completely retracted their preliminary testimony. In April 2023, the court sentenced Korolev, Kiramov and Kosyanenko to 7 years in prison each. Four months later, an appeal upheld the verdict against the believers. The Court of Cassation upheld this decision. In April 2024, Rinat Kiramov was illegally transferred to LIU No. 3 in the Tula Region, where he was subjected to bullying and torture.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Astrakhan Region
Locality:
Akhtubinsk
Suspected of:
According to the investigation, "organized meetings ... including the use of video conferencing ... namely, in the form of collective religious worship consisting of the public reproduction of audio and video recordings... sequential singing of songs from a special collection of religious teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses and prayers to Jehovah God."
Court case number:
12102120006000100
Initiated:
November 9, 2021
Current case stage:
the verdict entered into force
Investigating:
Akhtubinsk Interdistrict Investigation Department of the 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)
Court case number:
1-9/2023 (1–342/2022)
Court of First Instance:
Ахтубинский районный суд Астраханской области
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Анатолий Проскурин
Case History