The case of Buglak in Partizansk

Case history

A criminal case was initiated against economist Irina Buglak for organizing the activity of an extremist organization. She was detained in the spring of 2019 after searches were conducted. The believer spent six months in a detention center, then three and a half months under house arrest. According to the court order for Irina’s arrest, “the person was caught right after committing the crime.” The investigator of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation considered praying and discussing the Bible to be a “serious crime.” In January 2020, the case went to court. After a year of hearings, it was returned to the prosecutor’s office. A new trial in the same court began in October 2021. The prosecutor requested that Irina Buglak receive a six-year-and-five-month suspended sentence. In June 2023, the court gave her a two-year-and-six-month suspended sentence.

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    April 19, 2019

    The investigator of the investigation department for the city of Partizansk of the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Primorsky Territory, I. A. Bochkarev, issues a search order in the home of Irina Buglak and Nelly Tarasyuk. The searches last about 5 hours, then the women are taken to the prosecutor's office and interrogated from 4:00 to 7:00. A case under Part 1 of Article 282.2 was initiated, Irina was placed in a temporary detention facility.

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    April 20, 2019

    The Partizansk City Court of Primorsky Krai, chaired by Judge M. Y. Sundyukova, chooses a measure of restraint for Irina Buglak in the form of detention for a period of 2 months.

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    April 23, 2019

    The judge of the Partizansky City Court E. A. Shklyar makes a decision on the recognition of searches in the dwellings of Buglak and Tarasyuk as legal. The hearing shall be held in the absence of the accused.

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    April 24, 2019 Search
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    June 13, 2019

    The Partizansk City Court, composed of the presiding judge O. I. Balakhovskaya, extends the period of detention of Irina Buglak for 29 days.

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    July 2, 2019

    Judge of the Primorsky Regional Court A. N. Gorbacheva upholds the choice of a preventive measure and the extension of Buglak's detention by 29 days.

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    July 17, 2019

    The Partizansk City Court, chaired by Judge M. Y. Sundyukova, decides to extend the period of detention of Irina Buglak for another 2 months. Thus, she will have to spend 153 days in the pre-trial detention center.

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    September 17, 2019

    The presiding judge of the Partizansky City Court E. A. Shklyar makes a decision to extend the period of detention for another 1 month.

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    September 19, 2019

    The lawyer appeals against the decision of the Partizansky City Court of 17.09.2019.

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    October 16, 2019

    Irina Buglak was released from the pre-trial detention center under house arrest. She spent 181 days behind bars.

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    January 20, 2020

    The criminal case against Irina Buglak under the number 1-46/2020 is submitted to the Partizansky City Court of the Primorsky Territory. The case is referred to Judge Galina Prikazchikova.

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    January 31, 2020

    Preliminary hearing. Irina Buglak has been released from house arrest. She was asked to sign a not to leave the place.

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    February 6, 2020

    The main hearing in the case of Irina Buglak begins in the Partizansky City Court. The prosecutor reads out the indictment.

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    February 10, 2020

    3 prosecution witnesses are being questioned. The court satisfies 2 of the 3 petitions of the accused.

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    February 11, 2020

    9 witnesses are questioned at the hearing. Iryna Buglak requests that some non-religious materials containing the personal name of God be included in the case file. The defendant points out that the name of God is found in the Synodal translation of the Bible, it is known by people all over the world, and it is not prohibited.

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    February 12, 2020

    The prosecutor shall provide a religious examination with expert comments for inclusion in the case file. He also motions for the forced attendance of 10 witnesses who did not appear at the hearing.

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    February 13, 2020

    4 prosecution witnesses are being questioned.

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    March 3, 2020

    Due to the absence of witnesses, the prosecutor announces the evidence in the case listed in the indictment (materials of the ORM and religious expertise).

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    March 4, 2020

    The announcement of materials of religious expertise continues. The prosecutor petitions for the summoning of the expert M. B. Serdyuk and interrogation via videoconference. 4 prosecution witnesses are being questioned. In the process, the prosecutor is replaced by an assistant to E. V. Goncharova. The defendant recuses her, the court rejects it.

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    March 5, 2020

    Due to the absence of witnesses, the prosecutor continues to announce the case materials. The court begins watching videos of the service.

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    March 10, 2020

    The court continues to watch the video of the service. The interrogation of another defendant (who is not one of Jehovah's Witnesses at the time of the hearing) begins. The protocol of the inspection of the scene of the incident is announced. The next hearing is scheduled for March 27, 2020.

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    March 23, 2020

    Iryna Buglak requests to postpone the court hearing until at least April 11, 2020 due to the epidemiological situation.

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    May 29, 2020 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The court interrogates the expert M. Serdyuk, who drew up the conclusion of the forensic religious examination.

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    June 1, 2020
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    June 2, 2020

    This document confirms that the LRO in Partizansk was not liquidated by the Decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation of 20.04.2017. It ceased its activities in 2015 at the initiative of the founders.

    Having considered the motion of the defense to include the text of Opinion No. 10/202 of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in the case file, the court refuses to satisfy it in all its parts.

    The video recording of the search that took place on April 19, 2019 in the apartment of Nelly Tarasyuk begins.

    The next meetings are scheduled for June 30, July 2, 6 and 7, 2020.

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    June 30, 2020 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The court begins the study of material evidence - publications, clippings from them, personal notes seized during a search during a disrupted worship service.

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    July 2, 2020

    The study of material evidence continues. The state prosecutor is requesting an examination of publications and personal records seized during the searches. Buglak objects because these documents were not recognized as material evidence and were handed over to an expert religious scholar in violation of the law. Despite this, the judge grants the prosecutor's request.

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    July 7, 2020

    The court has completed the examination of material evidence. The questioning of two witnesses did not take place due to their failure to appear. The next court hearings are scheduled for August 20 and 21, 2020.

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    September 7, 2020

    A court hearing is being held in the Partizansky City Court of the Primorsky Territory in the case of Irina Buglak.

    The state prosecutor requests to summon investigator I. A. Bochkarev for re-interrogation (he was in charge of the Buglak case from the very beginning) and expert M. B. Serdyuk, as well as to summon for questioning another investigator from the investigation team that investigated the case of Irina. The defense objected, since the persons summoned again had already answered the questions posed by the state prosecution. The court satisfies the petition.

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    September 14, 2020

    The court is interrogating the investigator who participated in the searches on April 19, 2019, including those of Irina Buglak. During the interrogation, it turns out that the court has not yet examined the search protocol, according to the content of which the state prosecutor wanted to ask questions to the investigator.

    The next meeting is scheduled for September 18. Investigator I.A. Bochkarev and expert M.B. Serdyuk are expected to be re-interrogated.

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    November 20, 2020

    The court reads out the written materials of the case, including the characteristics of the accused, among which there is not a single negative one. In particular, the neighbors wrote: "We know her only on the positive side. She does not drink alcohol, she is a sympathetic person, she never refuses anyone's household requests from her neighbors. He treats neighbors of retirement age with respect, if possible, helps them in solving everyday problems. Irina Buglak is absolutely non-conflicting, she has never been seen in quarrels. By nature, Irina is kind, always takes part in in-house clean-ups ... She has a good, kind relationship in her family, she is a loving mother and wife."

    The believer submits a petition for the inclusion of the resolution of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in connection with Russia's failure to comply with the decision in the case of Jehovah's Witnesses in Moscow v. Russia. In response, the state prosecutor files a motion to postpone the trial in order to form his position on the request.

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    November 30, 2020

    Judge of the Partizansky City Court Galina Prikazchikova refuses to satisfy the petition to attach the resolution of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. After that, Irina Buglak filed a motion to return the case to the prosecutor. The judge grants the petition.

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    February 16, 2021

    The Primorsky Regional Court does not satisfy the appeal of the prosecutor filed by him against the decision of the Partizansky City Court of 30.11.2020. Irina Buglak's case will be returned to the prosecutor.

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    August 6, 2021

    The Court of Cassation satisfies the prosecutor's cassation submission against the decision of the Partizansky City Court of 30.11.2020 to return the case to the prosecutor's office. The criminal case of Irina Buglak is submitted to the Partizansky City Court for trial.

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    August 18, 2021

    At the preliminary hearing, the defense challenged Judge Maria Sundyukova — it was she who decided to arrest Irina Buglak in 2019.

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    October 25, 2021

    A retrial of the case begins. Daria Didur was appointed judge. On the first day, the court hears the prosecution and the attitude towards it, after which two witnesses are interrogated.

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    December 23, 2021

    The believer petitions for refusal of the services of a lawyer due to lack of income. The court refuses and appoints a lawyer at the expense of the federal budget.

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    June 7, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Interrogation of a witness. The assistant prosecutor asks provocative questions: "Do you know that those who believe in Jehovah are obliged to cooperate with the authorities?"; do you know that one of Jehovah's tenets is to tell the truth?" The Witness mainly uses Article 51 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

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    June 22, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    A support group of 10 people gathers in the corridor of the court.

    Prosecution witnesses who are personally acquainted with the defendant are questioned. One of them attended worship services of Jehovah's Witnesses until 2017. Some of her testimony in court does not match the testimony she gave during the interrogation.

    The second witness does not share the defendant's religious beliefs. He characterizes Irina as a kind person. The witness says that Irina communicated with his wife at their home. The Witness affirms that Irina did not undermine the foundations of the constitutional order, did not encourage the severance of family relations, and did not speak negatively about people, including those who are not Jehovah's Witnesses.

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    June 24, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Two other witnesses are being questioned. The assistant prosecutor again asks provocative questions: "Could you ever betray the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses, renounce Jehovah and not talk about it?"; Have you betrayed the faith? What is your opinion based on? On what postulates?"

    Both witnesses use Article 51 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, which allows them not to testify against themselves and their loved ones.

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    July 14, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    37 people come to support Irina Buglak.

    During three sessions on July 12-14, the court continues to question witnesses. One of them was a witness during the search of Buglak's house. The witness cannot accurately confirm her signature in the protocol. The defense draws attention to the fact that entire paragraphs of the texts of the witnesses' testimonies coincide word for word and contain the same errors. Despite this, the judge in writing refuses to examine the handwriting of the witness.

    Another witness states that during the interrogation, which lasted until the morning, the investigator put pressure on her, demanding that she sign the protocol with the wording he added.

    When asked by Irina Buglak, the witnesses answer that the believer did not force them to talk about the Bible. They also state that they have not heard negative statements from Buglak about representatives of other religions or propaganda of religious superiority. The facts of undermining the foundations of the constitutional order by the believer are also not known to them. One of the witnesses describes Irina as a kind and sincere person.

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    August 16, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Only two listeners are allowed to enter the hall, 28 people remain in the corridor who came to support Irina Buglak.

    A witness is being questioned. When asked if she knows about the religious direction of Jehovah's Witnesses, the witness replies that she cannot say anything bad about Irina, only good that she is a good friend.

    When asked by the lawyer if she read the protocol before signing, the witness replies: "How can I read it, I don't understand someone else's handwriting ... There's so much written, I haven't said that much."

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    August 17, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Witnesses are being questioned. One of them uses Article 51 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, and the other explains to the court under what circumstances she met the defendant. According to her, about 7-8 years ago, a woman came to her, left her religious literature and invited her to meetings, to which the witness, however, did not go. When asked by the state prosecutor whether the witness can determine which of the two women is Irina Buglak, the answer is negative.

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    August 26, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    A prosecution witness is being interrogated, who uses Article 51 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, answering all questions on the merits.

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    30 August — 20 October 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The case materials are being examined.

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    September 7, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    An off-site hearing is held in the home of one of the witnesses. She confirms her testimony in part. According to her, in the testimony "a lot was added, and the protocol was signed in a pre-stroke state. The investigator added and said: "Read, subscribe"... Well, I signed it, of course."

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    March 10, 2023 Prosecutor requested punishment

    The prosecutor requests for Irina Buglak a 6-year and 5-month suspended sentence with deprivation of the right to engage in activities related to leadership and participation in the work of religious and public organizations for a period of 6 years and with a probationary period of 4 years.

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    May 18, 2023 Final statement

    Irina Buglak makes the last word: "I did not commit any crime, but only exercised my constitutional right to believe in God."

    The court retires to the deliberation room for sentencing.

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    May 23, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Instead of announcing the verdict, the judge decides to resume the judicial investigation. The hearing is attended by 30 people.

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    June 6, 2023