Case of Tokarev in Kirov

Case history

Peaceful pensioner Anatoly Tokarev, a resident of Kirov, was sentenced by the court to a fine of 500 thousand rubles for his faith. The believer filed a complaint with the courts of appeal and cassation, but the verdict remained unchanged. The prosecutor asked to send the believer to a colony for 3.5 years, accusing him of organizing and financing a banned organization. According to him, this was expressed “in the joint singing of biblical songs and the study of religious literature,” as well as in covering the utility costs of an empty worship building. The persecution of Anatoliy began in May 2019. He was searched, the security forces arrested his apartment and garden, voiced threats to harm his relatives. The believer considers this pressure for refusing to incriminate himself and not admitting guilt in extremism. Judge Skorobogatov ignored the documents submitted by the defendant to international organizations advocating for Anatoly Tokarev’s right to freedom of religion. Interrogation of prosecution witnesses during the trial revealed that their testimony was falsified.

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    May 8, 2019

    The Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Kirov Region initiates a criminal case for faith under Articles 282.2 (1), 282.3 (1); According to investigators, he "organized ... including in his apartment... meetings of followers and participants of this meeting in compliance with the actions characteristic of this association, expressed in the joint singing of biblical songs ... study of religious literature, the so-called "Holy Scripture" (Bible), which is included in the Federal List of Extremist Materials Containing the Doctrine of Jehovah's Witnesses." Innocent victims of law enforcement officers are: Tokarev Anatoly (born in 1958).

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    May 28, 2019 Search
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    July 19, 2019 Search
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    July 29, 2019
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    November 12, 2019
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    November 22, 2019
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    February 25, 2020

    The hearing in the court of first instance begins. Anatoly Tokarev conveys to Judge Sergei Skorobogaty his attitude to the charge, to which he attaches decisions of international organizations such as the ECHR and the UN HRC, confirming the right of Jehovah's Witnesses to practice religion jointly. The judge accepts only the Attitude, rejecting everything else, including the petition to involve a specialist from the Ministry of Justice.

    Tokarev gives brief testimony, answers some of the questions of the prosecutor and the judge. The materials of the case are read out, the judge gives Tokarev the opportunity to comment on them.

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    March 5, 2020 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    About 30 people are present in the courtroom. The consideration of the written materials of the case continues. Anatoly Tokarev asks the prosecutor A. F. Popov to correctly pronounce the name of Jehovah God. The state prosecutor takes into account the religious feelings of the believer and is corrected.

    The court examines transcripts of hidden audio and video recordings made by embedded agents. Anatoly Tokarev objects to the compiled transcripts, arguing that the information in them is distorted, and the falsified data exposes him in a negative light.

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    May 12, 2020 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The judge rejects the defense's petition for a second postponement of the trial in connection with the coronavirus pandemic, since he does not find good reasons for this: Tokarev has not reached the age of 65 (he is 61 years old), and formally does not belong to the category of citizens at risk.

    The hearing is held without listeners, Anatoly's relatives are also not allowed into the courtroom.

    The prosecutor voices the last 5 volumes of the case, lists the video materials and publications seized during the search, including books by religious scholars.

    The prosecution does not provide any specific words or phrases of Tokarev that would incite hatred or religious enmity. Among the evidence of his guilt are only publications of "religious content with the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses." Moreover, none of these publications is included in the Federal List of Extremist Materials.

    The next court hearing is scheduled for May 29. Prosecution witnesses are scheduled to be questioned.

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    May 29, 2020

    The court is interrogating a witness for the prosecution, Police Major O. V. Bratukhin, an operative for the Department of Internal Affairs of the CPE of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia in the Kirov region. Bratukhin voices a number of absurd accusations against Jehovah's Witnesses: they allegedly refuse to work, have children, etc. He assures that this information "was obtained during operational-search activities." The believer asks for evidence of this information, but it is not recorded in the case file.

    At the next hearing on June 1, 2020, the court plans to question other prosecution witnesses.

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    June 1, 2020

    One of the prosecution witnesses, who testifies in favor of Tokarev, is being questioned in court. The story of the witness refutes the contradictory testimony given to the investigator earlier, on which the prosecutor insists, but it coincides with the testimony obtained during the confrontation of the witness with Tokarev. The judge asks the prosecution witness to decide on the version, and he "chooses" the testimony that the prosecutor insists on. The defendant draws attention to the fact that the witness is poorly informed about his own preliminary testimony, which may indicate fabrication in the case.

    The next hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on June 11. It is planned to question another witness from the prosecution.

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    June 11, 2020

    The Oktyabrsky District Court of Kirov continues to question prosecution witnesses.

    Witness Lobastova says that she participated in operational-search activities, making hidden audio and video recordings of conversations on biblical topics with Tokarev. To do this, police officers provided her with a tablet and a SIM card.

    The witness explains that Anatoliy did not exert pressure on her, she did not feel a threat to herself. The witness did not hear calls for violence, terrorist attacks or other forms of resistance on the part of the defendant. Tokarev did not see any banned religious publications. Lobastova confirms that attending religious meetings of believers is their voluntary decision.

    The judge rejects Tokarev's petitions, including the inclusion in the case of opinion 10/2020 of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the UN Human Rights Council, the statement about planting a book from the list of extremist materials in the mailbox and the termination of the criminal case.

    The next court hearing is scheduled for July 24, 2020. It is planned to interrogate witnesses from the defense.

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    October 6, 2020 Prosecutor requested punishment

    The debate of the parties is taking place. The prosecutor demands to sentence Anatoliy Tokarev to 3.5 years in a general regime colony, 1 year of restriction of freedom and 1 year of ban on holding positions in public associations.

    A believer, speaking in debates, does not admit guilt in any crimes. Tokarev considers the accusations of inciting hatred and enmity, as well as organizing and financing the activities of an extremist organization to be unproven and ridiculous. According to him, he, as one of Jehovah's Witnesses, exercised his constitutional right to freedom of religion exclusively by peaceful means.

    "In the denomination of Jehovah's Witnesses, not only is it discouraged to have hatred, much less to develop this negative emotion directed at another person, but this would even be an obstacle for such a person to be baptized by water and consecrate to God. Because, firstly, this would violate the commandment for Christians to "love their neighbor," and secondly, having a feeling of hatred and intolerance, it would be impossible to fulfill the fundamental commission of Jesus Christ to bring the good news of salvation to people of all kinds, tribes, languages and creeds. Even if the interlocutor is hostile, the servant of God is not allowed to have or develop a reciprocal feeling of hostility," Tokarev said, addressing the court.

    In his final statement, Anatoliy Tokarev said: "The threat of prison or even death causes fear for me, like any Jehovah's Witness, and the label of an extremist is a public and unfounded stain on my name. At the same time, Your Honor, I cannot give up God and thereby lose his love."

    The court goes to the deliberation room, the announcement of the verdict is scheduled for October 23.

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    October 23, 2020 First Instance Sentence

    The judge of the Oktyabrsky District Court of Kirov, Sergey Skorobogaty, announces the verdict: Anatoly Tokarev is guilty of organizing the activities of an extremist organization (part 1 of article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), he was sentenced to a fine of 500 thousand rubles.

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    January 14, 2021 Court of Appeal

    During the debate of the parties in the Kirov Regional Court, prosecutor Kolosov calls the verdict in the form of a fine of 500 thousand rubles for Anatoly Tokarev justified and asks to leave it in force.

    Anatoly, speaking in the debate, states that the peaceful religious activities of Jehovah's Witnesses have been criminalized in Russia. He stresses that he did not commit actions of an extremist nature. The Oktyabrskiy District Court considered peaceful prayers, chants and discussions of biblical teachings to be criminal actions, without distinguishing between meetings of ordinary believers, in which Anatoliy participated, and the activities of a banned legal entity in which the believer was not a member.

    There are no victims in the case of Anatoliy Tokarev, and during the hearings in the court of first instance, not a single statement or action of a believer was cited that would pose a threat to the constitutional order and security of the state.

    "The court did not explain in any way how men and women, including many elderly people, who come together to pray, sing songs and discuss together, threaten the security of a huge state," the believer said.

    At the end of the debate, Anatoliy asks to cancel the sentence and recognize his right to rehabilitation.

    "The modern persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses repeats the persecution in Soviet times. Now that brutal terror is condemned. But everything repeats itself again," says Anatoly, speaking with the last word.

    The panel of judges - Mikhail Obukhov, Lyubov Zhuravleva and Roman Bronnikov - despite the lack of evidence of Anatoly's guilt, determines to leave the verdict of the previous instance in force.

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    November 30, 2021

    The Sixth Court of Cassation of General Jurisdiction, located in Samara, leaves the appeal decision unchanged. The verdict in the form of a fine of 500 thousand rubles, already paid by Anatoly Tokarev, remains in force.