Case of Shpakovskiy in Pskov

Case History

Since the beginning of 2018, 60-year-old Gennady Shpakovsky has been under surveillance. In the summer of the same year, the Investigative Department of the FSB Directorate for the Pskov Region opened a criminal case against a peaceful believer. In June, the Pskov FSB, with the support of the armed National Guard, conducted a series of searches of local believers, including Gennady. He was accused of organizing and financing extremist activities. After 2 years of investigations and trials, the judge of the Pskov City Court, Galina Belik, sentenced Shpakovsky to 6.5 years in prison, although there were no victims in the case. One of the prosecution witnesses appealed to the judge with a request: “Please do not punish him severely, because he is not guilty of anything!” On August 3, 2020, the Court of Appeal replaced the prison term with a suspended sentence.

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    May 31, 2018

    The FSB of Russia in the Pskov region initiates a criminal case against Gennady Shpakovsky and unidentified persons. Before that, the security forces have been following Gennady for several months, collecting "evidence".

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    June 3, 2018

    Mass raid of armed soldiers of the Russian Guard on believers in Pskov. Among the detainees is Gennady Shpakovsky. The court chooses him as a measure of restraint on his own recognizance not to leave.

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    July 4, 2018 Search
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    March 19, 2019

    Gennadiy was charged with organizing the activities of a banned community. After about 4 months, the charges are clarified.

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    August 21, 2019

    Another criminal case has been opened against Shpakovsky on the financing of an extremist organization. Allegedly, Shpakovsky collected donations for the needs of the liquidated organization. On the same day, the new business is merged with the old one.

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    November 5, 2019

    The first court hearing was held in the Pskov City Court. Judge Galina Belik presides.

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    November 14, 2019

    The hearing was attended by about 40 listeners, including media representatives. However, the hall accommodated only half of those who came.

    Gennady Shpakovskiy said that he would testify at the end of the trial in order to comment on all the nuances of the charges at once.

    The next hearing is scheduled for November 18, 2019.

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    November 18, 2019

    Prosecution witnesses do not appear for questioning. The prosecution begins to present the evidence set forth in 7 volumes.

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    December 23, 2019

    The court examines the prosecution witness. The witness, a woman, appeals to the judge with a request: "Please do not punish him severely, because he is not guilty of anything!"

    Participants in the hearings get acquainted with video and audio materials. Due to the poor quality of the recording, the judge interrupts the playback and insists on providing better quality recordings or evidence that directly indicates the corpus delicti.

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    January 22, 2020

    The prosecution continues to present written, audio and video evidence. The court pays special attention to recordings of Shpakovsky's prayers, as well as screenshots of personal letters and documents from his computer desktop.

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    January 23, 2020

    Re-interrogation of the prosecution witness, Ivan Kalyt, the FSB officer who directly conducted the search.

    The next hearings are scheduled for 29 January, 13 and 18 February.

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    February 10, 2020

    The hearings were postponed due to the absence of prosecution witnesses.

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    February 13, 2020

    Lawyer, and then prosecutor and judge Galina Belik interrogate Gennadiy Shpakovskiy. The prosecutor asks questions about the LRO of Pskov, is interested in Shpakovsky's attitude towards representatives of other faiths.

    The judge's questions revolve around the activities of the Pskov LRO, as well as literature included in the list of extremist materials and blood transfusions. The judge wonders why Shpakovsky kept copies of the Bible in the New World Translation instead of destroying them. To this, the believer replies that his hand did not rise to destroy the Word of God.

    Judge Belik's questions to Shpakovsky reveal that she is influenced by prejudice. Addressing the defendant, the judge says, as he understands his actions: "You say: (...) " They will send papers from Brooklyn, I will gather everyone, and we will again learn the Bible the way they want. Not as the state calling itself the Russian Federation wants, but as the state calling itself the United States of America wants" (In fact, the believer only enjoys the inalienable right to freedom of religion, which is guaranteed to everyone by the Constitution of the Russian Federation.).

    The next meeting is scheduled for 10:30 on 18.02.2020.

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    February 18, 2020

    The defense attaches to the case a number of documents explaining the difference between the activities of the LRO and religious groups.

    The prosecution presents audio recordings of meetings of believers, at which excerpts from the Bible are read out as evidence of Shpakovsky's guilt. The court compares the different translations and concludes that the Bible was used in the New World Translation, which was allegedly banned at the time. Contrary to the decision of the authorities on the inadmissibility of the ban on sacred books, the Holy Scriptures in the New World Translation were indeed included in the register of prohibited materials, but much later - on July 5, 2018. Thus, according to lawyer A. Chemirov, Shpakovsky did not commit any violation, let alone a crime.

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

    The session lasts only 6 minutes. The judge informs about the motion of the prosecution to postpone the hearing in connection with the summoning of a specialist from the Moscow State Linguistic University. At the same time, the judge does not name the expert.

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    May 28, 2020

    Gennadiy Shpakovskiy submits an application to the prosecutor's office and the court to drop the charges against him on the basis of the decisions of the UN Working Group against 18 Jehovah's Witnesses persecuted for their faith.

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    June 1, 2020

    A hearing is being held in the Pskov City Court, to which listeners are not allowed due to the epidemiological situation. As an exception, the court allows the daughter of the accused to be present at the hearing.

    Judge Galina Belik does not find the decision of the UN working group a sufficient reason to terminate the criminal case, but attaches the defendant's petition to the case file.

    The prosecutor concludes the presentation of evidence. The court shall proceed to the pleadings of the parties. The state prosecutor considers Gennadiy's guilt fully proven and asks the court to impose a sentence of 7.5 years in prison in a general regime colony.

    The defendant delivers the last word. He does not admit his guilt and does not agree with the charges.

    The court retires to the deliberation room for sentencing.

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    June 3, 2020
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    June 9, 2020 First Instance Sentence

    Judge Galina Belik sentences Shpakovsky to 6.5 years in a penal colony, ignoring the fact that there are no real crimes and no victims in the believer's case. The decision will be appealed.

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    July 30, 2020 Court of Appeal

    An appeal hearing is being held in the Pskov Regional Court. The defendant speaks via video conferencing from pre-trial detention center No. 1 in Pskov. The court announces that the appellate ruling will be announced on August 3, 2020 at 10:00 a.m.

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    August 3, 2020 Court of Appeal

    The Pskov Regional Court replaces Gennady Shpakovsky's prison sentence with a 6.5-year suspended sentence. On the same day, the believer is released from the pre-trial detention center, but the unfair conviction is considered to have entered into force. It can be appealed.