The defendants with family and friends before the verdict

Unjust Verdicts

A Court in Samara Sent Four Jehovah's Witnesses to a Penal Colony for Seven Years

Samara Region

Aram Danielyan, Denis Kuzyanin, Sergey Polosenko and Nikolay Vasiliyev were sentenced to 7 years in prison for practicing their faith. This decision was made by the judge of the Samara District Court Dmitriy Derunov on Thursday, January 25. The believers were taken into custody. Their friends and relatives accompanied the paddy wagon with applause and shouts of "we love you!"

The six-month trial against the Samara residents ended rapidly: the last hearing with interruptions lasted more than 10 hours. During this time, the debates of the parties, the last word and the announcement of the verdict took place.

The charges of organizing extremist activities are based on hidden recordings of worship services and personal conversations about the Bible, as well as some documents from the computer of one of the defendants, which, as it turned out in court, were uploaded there by an FSB technical specialist during the search. What kind of extremist actions or statements were made by believers is not indicated in the file.

Defendants in the courtroom during a break
Defendants in the courtroom during a break

The prosecutor requested 9 years of real imprisonment for all defendants. The defense requested an adjournment of the debate so that everyone had the opportunity to prepare, but the judge refused and granted only a 10-minute break. "I ask you to pass an acquittal on the results of this unprecedented case," said one of the lawyers in the ensuing speech, "and I ask [to pass] a private ruling on the violation of the current legislation not only for the sake of Danielyan and other defendants, who have already received their share of unjustified persecution in full, but also for the sake of other citizens who may face attacks from the investigator and the prosecutor's office."

The defendants prepared their appeals to the court with the last word at a break announced after the debate. At this time, their wives and other relatives, realizing that the case was moving towards a real term of imprisonment, brought things, and relatives and friends continued to gather near the courthouse in the cold. The meeting was also attended (apparently with the aim of exerting pressure on the court) by three FSB officers, including Nikolay Kulik, known to local believers for his negative attitude towards Jehovah's Witnesses. One of those who came, as previously stated by believers, was present at the beating during the detention.

Aram, Nikolay, Denis and Sergey previously expressed deep gratitude to family and friends for their support. "I can confidently say that if it were not for the help of my brothers and sisters, I would not have endured this ordeal with dignity," Aram said. Denis shared: "One of the most memorable events was the receipt of the first batch of letters about a month after I got to the pre-trial detention center. About 80 of them were brought, and a few days later the same number.

The case of the believers developed according to the already "standard" scheme: searches were carried out in the homes of Jehovah's Witnesses in Samara in December 2021, followed by interrogations. All four defendants in the case spent a year behind bars during the investigation. Believers consider the verdict unfair and intend to appeal against it.

In the Samara region, this is the second conviction for peaceful religion.

The case of Polosenko and Others in Samara

Case History
In December 2021, at least 10 homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses were searched in Samara. In one of the apartments, the security forces tortured and beat believers. Three men were arrested and taken into custody. An investigator of the FSB of Russia opened a criminal case against Sergey Polosenko, Denis Kuzyanin, Nikolay Vasiliyev and Aram Danielyan, who was detained and sent to a pre-trial detention center three weeks later, on charges of continuing the activities of the “Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia” in the Samara region. After about 300 days of imprisonment, the believers were released from custody under a ban on certain actions. In April 2023, the case went to court. In January 2024, the prosecutor requested that the believers be sentenced to 9 years in prison. At the same hearing, the court sent them to jail for 7 years.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Samara Region
Court case number:
December 14, 2021
Current case stage:
Federal Security Service of Russia in the Samara Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
1-7/2024 (1-105/2023)
Court of First Instance:
Самарский районный суд г. Самары
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Дмитрий Дерунов
Case History