Case of Sergeyev and Belosludtsev in Luchegorsk

Case history

In March 2019, the Investigative Committee opened a criminal case for their faith against Yuriy Belosludtsev and Sergey Sergeyev from the village of Luchegorsk. They were accused of participating in the activities of an extremist organization and involving others in it. The investigation considered that the men were in a “criminal conspiracy” to “study and discuss religious material on topics about Jehovah.” Later, operatives searched their homes. The believers spent more than six months in a pre-trial detention center, and then another 5 months under house arrest. In June 2020, court hearings began, and a year and a half later, Belosludtsev and Sergeyev were sentenced to 6 years probation. The prosecutor asked for a sentence of 5.5 and 5 years in prison, respectively. The Court of Appeal and the Court of Cassation upheld the conviction.

  • #
    March 11, 2019

    The Investigative Directorate for the city of Dalnerechensk of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Primorsky Territory initiates a criminal case for faith under Articles 282.2 (1) and 282.2 (2); According to the investigation, "conducted conversations aimed at explaining the norms, foundations, rules and restrictions, in order to promote the activities of the banned organization [Jehovah's Witnesses] and took a direct part in the meetings."

  • #
    March 17, 2019

    FSB officers conduct searches in the homes of believers in Luchegorsk (Primorye Territory). In some places, searches and interrogations last for 7 hours. Two believers, 55-year-old Yuriy Belosludtsev and 63-year-old Sergey Sergeyev, were detained and taken to Dalnerechensk.

  • #
    March 19, 2019 Search
  • #
    March 22, 2019
  • #
    October 7, 2019
  • #
    March 24, 2020

    Searches are being conducted in the homes of 5 believers. At 7 a.m., law enforcement officers appear in the apartments of Yuriy Ponomarenko and Sergey Sergeyev. In both cases, the security forces, in the presence of witnesses, seized their electronic devices. The decision for the inspection and seizure of technical equipment was issued by the head of the FSB department in the village of Luchegorsk. From 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., investigators come to the homes of Mykola Dikhtyar, Vitaliy Lazarenko and Yelena Belosludtseva with a ruling from the Pozharsky District Court. The security forces inspect the homes for printed publications and Bibles, but find nothing.

  • #
    April 17, 2020

    Lieutenant of Justice, investigator of the Department of Internal Affairs of the Investigative Department for the city of Dalnerechensk P. Kim is prosecuting Sergey Sergeyev and Yuri Belosludtsev as defendants under Article 282.2 (2) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. The believers are accused of "criminal conspiracy" to "study and discuss religious material on topics about Jehovah."

  • #
    April 21, 2020

    Despite written requests to postpone investigative actions due to the threat of coronavirus infection, believers Belosludtsev and Sergeyev are forced to go to the investigative department, located 80 kilometers from their home in the city of Dalnerechensk, to receive an indictment.

  • #
    June 9, 2020

    The Pozharsky District Court of Primorsky Krai is holding the first hearing on the merits in the criminal case against believers Yuri Belosludtsev and Sergey Sergeyev. The case is being considered by judge Yevgeny Stefanyuk, the state prosecutor is the prosecutor of the Pozharsky district Nikolai Trapeznikov.

    Due to the difficult epidemiological situation, students are not allowed into the courtroom. Sergey Sergeyev files a motion to suspend the criminal proceedings. One of the reasons is the impossibility, due to the restrictions caused by the pandemic, to ensure the publicity of the trial. The court shall adjourn the consideration of the case. The next court hearing is scheduled for June 24, 2020 at 2:15 p.m.

  • #
    October 23, 2020 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The first court hearing in the case of Sergey Sergeyev and Yuri Belosludtsev is taking place after an almost 5-month break.

    Sergeyev is filing a motion to suspend the criminal proceedings in connection with COVID-19, as he is at risk due to his age and a number of diseases. The judge refuses.

    State prosecutor Roman Chervonopraporny announces the text of the charges.

    Believers plead not guilty. Belosludtsev notes: "I think that the accusation is far-fetched. It is written in a way that is beneficial to the prosecution, does not correspond to reality and the requirements of the law. Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation provides for liability for committing extremist actions, and in fact I am accused of believing in God and remaining a Jehovah's Witness."

    The defendants apply for a change in the measure of restraint. The court refuses - the believers remain under recognizance not to leave.

    Sergeyev and Belosludtsev file a motion to dismiss the case and attach the decision of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD). The petition was partially satisfied: the court attaches the decision of the WGP, but refuses to terminate the criminal case or return it to the prosecutor.

  • #
    January 28, 2021

    Judge Yevhen Stefaniuk interrogates 3 witnesses in the criminal case. One of them, a former colleague of Sergeev, gives him a positive characterization and calls him a responsible employee.

  • #
    January 29, 2021

    The questioning of witnesses is ongoing. Sergey Sergeyev's former boss describes him as a good, executive worker. The testimonies of 2 more witnesses interrogated during the investigation are being announced.

  • #
    March 2, 2021

    FSB operative Prokhor Vasin, who participated in the ORM, is being questioned as a witness for the prosecution. Pretending to be interested in the Bible, he secretly filmed conversations with the defendants.

    According to the prosecution witness, the "extremism" of the believers lies in the fact that they discussed the Bible with him. At the same time, for such conversations, he safely let home strangers who came with one of the defendants.

  • #
    March 30, 2021

    Believers testify. Sergey Sergeyev says: "The fact that I am one of Jehovah's Witnesses cannot be regarded as a sign of a crime. Jehovah's Witnesses are Christians. My beliefs are based on the commandments of God, the norms and principles of love and justice of Jehovah God. Therefore, for me, being an extremist and a terrorist is simply unthinkable.

    Yuriy Belosludtsev explains: "I never had any intention to commit a crime, including the continuation of the activities of a liquidated religious association. I have only one intention: to remain a Christian. [...] Learning about what the Bible says is an increase in a person's personal education and cultural level, not a crime. [...] The prosecution confuses legal and canonical concepts, does not distinguish between the economic activity of a legal entity (LRO) and the religion of individuals. According to him, if a believer discusses God with relatives or acquaintances, he does not continue the activities of any banned organization.

  • #
    June 8, 2021 Prosecutor requested punishment

    During the pleadings, the prosecutor requests 5 and a half years in prison for Yuriy Belosludtsev, and 5 years in prison for Sergey Sergeyev.

    Lawyers and believers themselves also speak in the debates, proving to the court that the defendants' beliefs are incompatible with extremism, and the accusations of crimes are groundless.

    On June 28, Sergeev and Belosludtsev will make their final speech. On the same day, the court may issue a verdict.

  • #
    June 28, 2021 Final statement First Instance Sentence

    The court retires to the deliberation room for sentencing.

  • #
    June 30, 2021

    One step before the verdict is announced, the court decides to resume the judicial investigation. Sentencing is therefore postponed indefinitely. The next hearing is scheduled for July 19.

  • #
    July 19, 2021 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Referee: Yevhen Stefaniuk. Pozharsky District Court of Primorsky Krai (Luchegorsk, microdistrict 4, 2).

    The next court hearing in the case of Sergeev and Belosludtsev is taking place. In connection with the decision to resume the judicial investigation, the judge tries to interrogate the believers again, but they refuse to answer questions, since they have already given the court all the necessary explanations at previous hearings.

  • #
    January 26, 2022

    The court session at which the verdict was scheduled to be announced is postponed.

  • #
    January 31, 2022 First Instance Sentence

    Judge of the Pozharsky District Court of Primorsky Krai Yevgeny Stefanyuk convicts Sergey Sergeyev and Yuriy Belosludtsev - 6 years probation each with a probationary period of 5 years and restriction of liberty for 1 year and 9 months.

  • #
    April 21, 2022 Court of Appeal

    The Primorsky Regional Court in Vladivostok approves the verdict to Yuri Belosludtsev and Sergey Sergeyev - 6 years suspended each.

  • #
    April 25, 2022 Court of Appeal
  • #
    October 18, 2022