Danil Suvorov participates in the appeal hearing via video-conferencing from the pre-trial detention center

Unjust Verdicts

Krasnodar Territorial Court Upheld the Sentence Against Danil Suvorov from Sochi for his Beliefs: 6 Years in A Penal Colony

Krasnodar Territory

On May 7, 2024, the Court of Appeal considered the appeal of Danil Suvorov, one of Jehovah's Witness, against the verdict for his faith. The panel of judges also found that the 28-year-old believer is guilty of extremism and that he should serve his sentence of 6 years in a penal colony.

In June 2023, Yekaterina Ostapenko, judge of the Central District Court of Sochi, found Danil Suvorov guilty of committing crimes specified in Article 282.2(1.1) (2) of the RF Criminal Code. By that time, the believer had spent almost two years in pretiral detention. Then for about another year he was in prison awaiting the decision on his appeal.

The verdict of the court of first instance was based on the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation of April 20, 2017 on the liquidation of legal entities of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia. However, as emphasized in his appeal, this decision did not require individuals, including the defendant, to renounce their faith and stop worshiping God. Actions such as "participating in religious teaching and preaching", "lectures based on the religious literature of Jehovah's Witnesses", and "conversations and religious discussions" are not prohibited by the RF Criminal Code, but, on the contrary, are guaranteed by the RF Constitution as fundamental human rights and freedoms belonging to him from birth. In fact, Danil Suvorov was convicted only because he remained a believer after the liquidation of the legal entities.

The defense also noted that the testimony of the Sochi expert, Natalya Yedneralova, and the expert study conducted by her should not have been accepted as evidence of the defendant's guilt, since for a number of reasons she did not have the legal right to conduct a comprehensive psycho–linguistic and religious expert study: the expert does not work for a state agency, but for a private firm; does not have the necessary qualifications; does not have the right to perform a comprehensive assessment on her own, in this case the participation of an expert commission is required.

Moreover, in the appeal the defense referred to Article 14 of the RF Constitution: "Taking into account the constitutional principle of separation of church and state, the law does not establish norms as to which forms of practising religion are correct and which are not. Therefore, in each religion they are different: for some religions it is visiting their temples and using certain attributes of faith, and for the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses it is discussing the Bible together with others, whether at home or in the street."

Prosecutions in the Krasnodar Territory have already affected 34 peaceful believers, including Danil's older brother, Denis Suvorov. Four of them, including a woman, are serving sentences in penal colonies just because they did not stop believing in God at the demand of the court.

The Case of Danil Suvorov in Sochi

Case History
In August 2021, a wave of searches took place in Sochi as part of the criminal case against Danil Suvorov. He was detained and put in a detention center. The believer was accused of involving a local resident (as it turned out later, an undercover informant) in the activity of an extremist organization. Six months later, the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee for the Krasnodar Territory initiated a criminal case against Danil and his older brother Denis. They were charged under two articles: participating in the activity of an extremist organization and involving others in it. In April 2022, Danil was indicted, and in May, the case went to court. In June 2023, the prosecutor requested 8 years in a penal colony for Danil. The court sentenced the believer to 6 years imprisonment. In May 2024, the court of appeal upheld this decision.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Krasnodar Territory
Suspected of:
According to the investigation, "using his authority as a spiritual leader of a follower of the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses in the territory of Sochi, Krasnodar Territory, he took active steps aimed at persuading, recruiting and otherwise involving ... in the activities of a banned extremist organization"
Court case number:
February 8, 2022
Current case stage:
the verdict entered into force
Investigation Department for the Central District of Sochi of the Investigative Department of the Russian Federation for the Krasnodar Territory
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1.1), 282.2 (2)
Court case number:
1-30/2023 (1-448/2022)
Court of First Instance:
Екатерина Остапенко
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Центральный районный суд г. Сочи
Case History