Sergey Kosyanenko, Rinat Kiramov and Sergey Korolev in the courtroom, April 13, 2023

Unjust Verdicts

Court of Cassation Did not Change the Harsh Sentence of Three of Jehovah's Witnesses from Akhtubinsk for Their Faith. They Will Continue to Serve Their Sentences in the Penal Colony

Astrakhan Region

On March 19, 2024, the Fourth Court of Cassation of General Jurisdiction in Krasnodar rejected the appeal of Sergey Korolev, Sergey Kosyanenko and Rinat Kiramov against the verdict of the court of first instance. The believers will remain in the penal colony.

Korolev, Kosyanenko and Kiramov have already been imprisoned for more than two years for ordinary religious practices not related to extremist activity. Their lawyer emphasized this in the cassation appeal: "The court did not substantiate in its decisions why it regarded the peaceful way of expressing faith in God as a way of committing a crime."

The defense also pointed out in the cassation appeal that the verdict and the appellate ruling "were issued with significant violations of the law," namely: the court did not take into account that the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses is not banned; did not indicate specific extremist actions of the defendants; did not provide evidence of unlawfulness; and did not establish motives for committing the crimes. In addition, the court did not assess the violations during the expert studies, in particular, the fact that the linguist N. V. Gromova encroached on the competence of a religious scholar and tried to "conduct her own religious study."

Irina and Galina, Rinat Kiramov’s mother and wife, in front of the court of cassation, March 2024
Irina and Galina, Rinat Kiramov's mother and wife, in front of the court of cassation, March 2024

Professor Anatoliy Pchelintsev, an honorable Russian lawyer, said: "Jehovah's Witnesses as part of global Christianity are recognized and operate unhindered in most countries of the world and are only banned in some countries with a totalitarian regime ... Without guaranteed freedom of conscience, no state can be stable and prosperous."

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