Vladimir Baykalov with his wife in front of the courthouse

Unjust Verdicts

Six Years Suspended Sentence for Faith in Jehovah God. A Court in Kemerovo Found Vladimir Baykalov Guilty of Extremism

Kemerovo Region

The court gave Vladimir Baikalov, 60, a 6-year suspended sentence for talking about the Bible with friends. This decision was made on October 23, 2023, by the judge of the Zavodsky District Court of the city of Kemerovo, Marina Romanina. The state prosecutor asked to send the believer to a penal colony for 7 years.

"I used to teach people how to beat, and now I teach them to love," said former boxing coach Vladimir Baykalov, emphasizing the absurdity of the accusation. "[Before becoming one of Jehovah's Witnesses], I devoted many years to boxing, even though it was not only my favorite job, but also my life's work . . . The Bible taught me to show love to people instead of aggression, and instead of inflicting pain, it [nurtured] a desire and willingness to help. This is the exact opposite of extremism, hatred or enmity."

Investigator of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation Aleksandra Isayeva opened a criminal case in February 2022. A day later, Baykalov's home was searched. The security forces equated peaceful conversations about God with organizing the activities of an extremist organization. At the same time, there are no facts of extremist calls or statements on the part of Vladimir in the case. According to witnesses who spoke in court, they also did not hear anything like this from Baykalov. At least one of them stated that the protocol of his interrogation was falsified. The believer drew the court's attention to the comments of the operatives themselves to the transcripts of the audio recordings of the liturgical meetings: "Conversations of operational interest have not been recorded." The audio recordings show believers discussing the importance of following biblical standards and displaying qualities such as modesty and humility.

Even before the trial, Vladimir Baykalov was twice subjected to a psychiatric examination. During one of them, the doctor who cooperated with the investigation, according to the believer, exerted strong psychological pressure on him and intimidated him with forced hospitalization, trying to force Baykalov to incriminate himself.

To cope with all the difficulties, as Vladimir said, he and his wife were helped by friends. "You just can't do without their help in these difficult times. They shared encouraging thoughts and provided tremendous support at court hearings. Once the prosecutor said: "There are so many listeners, but who are they to you?" I replied: "These are relatives and friends." He was surprised. Also, immediately after the search, fellow believers helped financially."

The verdict has not entered into force and can be appealed.

In Kuzbass, 15 cases were initiated against Jehovah's Witnesses. The sentences of 11 believers have already entered into force. Two of them, Sergey Ananin and Andrey Vlasov, are serving long sentences in a penal colony.

The Case of Baykalov in Kemerovo

Case History
In February 2022, a criminal case was initiated against Vladimir Baykalov from Kemerovo simply because he is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The next day, the Investigative Committee authorized a search of the believer’s home. He was accused of organizing the activity of an extremist organization. According to the investigation, Baykalov’s extremist actions consisted of communicating on Bible topics via video conferencing. In November 2022, the case went to court. The prosecutor requested 7 years in a penal colony for the believer, but in November 2023 the judge gave him a 6-year suspended sentence. Four months later, the court of appeal upheld this verdict.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Kemerovo Region
Locality:
Kemerovo
Suspected of:
According to the investigation, he conducted conversations through video conferencing with an indefinite circle of people, "during which he promoted the activities of an extremist organization."
Court case number:
12202320003000010
Initiated:
February 2, 2022
Current case stage:
the verdict entered into force
Investigating:
SO in the Zavodskoy district of Kemerovo of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation in the Kemerovo region - Kuzbass
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
1-82/2023 (1-982/2022)
Court of First Instance:
Заводский районный суд г. Кемерово
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Марина Романина
Case History