Case of Kruglyakov and Others in Syktyvkar

Case History

In March 2021, massive searches of Jehovah’s Witnesses took place in Syktyvkar. Sergey Ushakhin, Andrey Kharlamov, Aleksandr Ketov and Aleksandr Kruglyakov were placed in a temporary detention facility. The Investigative Committee initiated a criminal case against them and Lidiya Nekrasova, accusing the believers of organizing the activities of an extremist organization and participating in it. Sergey, 60, a group II disabled person, and Lydia, 68, were under recognizance agreement. Kharlamov and Ketov found themselves under house arrest, and Kruglyakov — in custody for two months. Later, for Ketov and Kruglyakov, the preventive measure was changed to prohibition of certain actions. After a year, the case went to trial. Since the charges were drawn up in violation of the law and no facts of extremism were identified, the judge returned the case to the prosecutor. In January 2023, it was back in court. In August 2023, Sergey Ushakhin’s condition suddenly deteriorated, and he died.

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    March 2, 2021

    Alexander Belov, senior investigator of the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee for the Komi Republic, chooses a preventive measure against Lydia Nekrasova in the form of a written undertaking not to leave the place and proper behavior. A written undertaking not to leave is taken from Sergey Ushakhin. The decision is issued by investigator I. V. Ovsyannikov.

    The investigation believes that the believers "committed active actions aimed at participating in the illegal activities of the Syktyvkar LRO of Jehovah's Witnesses by ... studying the religious norms of the banned organization by reading poems, watching videos, participating in meetings, meetings of the banned organization."

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    March 3, 2021 Search
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    April 27, 2021

    The Syktyvkar City Court of the Komi Republic satisfies the petition of the senior investigator of the Investigative Committee of the Investigative Committee A. Y. Belov and softens the measure of restraint for Andrey Kharlamov. He is prohibited from certain actions.

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    April 28, 2021

    The Syktyvkar City Court of the Komi Republic changes the measure of restraint for Aleksandr Kruglyakov and Aleksandr Ketov to prohibit certain actions. Aleksandr Kruglyakov spent 57 days in the pre-trial detention center.

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    December 28, 2021

    Believers are served with orders to bring them as accused.

    Investigators Egorov D. Y. and Mitroshin O. S. take a written undertaking not to leave Sergey Ushakhin and Lydia Nekrasova.

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    February 19, 2022

    The prosecutor's office approves the indictment.

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    March 10, 2022

    The case goes to the Syktyvkar City Court of the Komi Republic (Syktyvkar, Pushkin St., 20). Maria Lekomtseva was appointed judge in the case.

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    April 19, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    About 40 people gather outside the courthouse to support the defendants. Only two are allowed into the meeting room with reference to the epidemiological situation.

    The hearing was postponed because the defendant Andrey Kharlamov did not receive a summons to appear at the hearing.

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

    About 30 people come to the courthouse.

    The prosecutor reads out the charge by mispronouncing the name of God. During the break, the defendant politely asks him to pronounce God's name correctly. The prosecutor takes this request into account and in the future correctly puts the emphasis on the name of God.

    The defendant applies for a broadcast of the court session on the Internet. The judge grants the motion despite the prosecutor's objection. However, due to the poor quality of communication, the broadcast cannot be carried out.

    Since the meeting room cannot accommodate everyone who wants to attend the hearing, they are allocated a separate room. The meeting is being broadcast there, but due to the poor quality of communication, audibility is poor.

    The judge rejects the motions of the two defendants for self-defense.

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    June 9, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Judge Maria Lekomtseva notes violations in the indictment: it does not reflect the specific illegal actions of the defendants, does not provide evidence of criminal intent and extremist motives.

    For example, the indictment against Lydia Nekrasova states that she watched videos and sang songs at worship services, but does not indicate any signs of extremism.

    The judge recalls that in accordance with Art. 220 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Russian Federation, the investigator is obliged to indicate the circumstances, place, time, methods, motives, goals and consequences related to the criminal case.

    Appealing to the decision of the Plenum of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation of October 28, 2021, the judge decides to return the case to the prosecutor.

    Preventive measures against believers remain unchanged.

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    August 16, 2022 Return of the case to prosecutor

    Judge of the Supreme Court of the Komi Republic Dmitry Peshakov considers the appeal of the prosecutor P. A. Sadomsky and the complaints of believers.

    The defendants emphasize that they lead a peaceful lifestyle, and due to the absence of corpus delicti and signs of extremism in their actions, they ask for an acquittal. The judge upholds the decision of the first instance.

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    January 17, 2023 Case went to court

    The materials of the criminal case are re-submitted for consideration to the Syktyvkar City Court of the Komi Republic. Judge Yevgeny Sazhin will listen to him.

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    March 27, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The session is in the new composition of the court. In addition to the participants in the case, 24 listeners are present at it.

    The judge does not satisfy Kruglyakov's petition to terminate the criminal case, cancel the preventive measure and remove the arrest from his car. Prosecutor Nikolai Egorov reads out the indictment.

    The defendants speak with an attitude to the prosecution. Lydia Nekrasova, 70, says her faith is based on biblical teachings. The judge interrupts the believer and demands that she stop quoting the Bible.

    Aleksandr Kruglyakov draws the court's attention to the fact that extremism is alien to his religion. He also says: "Propaganda of exclusivity, religious discord, negative assessment of representatives of other religions have not been proven in the case materials. There is even a specialist's conclusion about the absence of extremism in my actions. I consider criminal prosecution to be repression for faith."

    Andrey Kharlamov in his speech recalls that the decision of the Supreme Court of 20.04.2017 did not limit the right of people to worship Jehovah God.

    Aleksandr Ketov and Sergey Ushakhin also plead not guilty to extremism.

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    April 19, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Defendant Alexander Kruglyakov draws the court's attention to the use of words in the case materials that offend his religious feelings: "adept", "Jehovah's Witness", "sect", "propaganda".

    The court refuses to soften the measure of restraint to Alexander Ketov, who filed a corresponding petition in connection with his wife's illness.

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    June 15, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The case against Sergey Ushakhin has been suspended due to his illness. The court decides to request information about his state of health and ongoing treatment and then determine the course of further proceedings.

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    July 6, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The commission of the Ministry of Health of the Komi Republic establishes that Sergey Ushakhin has indications for receiving high-tech medical care. He can receive this treatment only outside the Komi Republic.

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    August 10, 2023 Died during investigation Believers with a disability

    It becomes known about the death of Sergei Ushakhin. The day before, his condition deteriorated greatly, and he was hospitalized in the city cardiology center.

    The believer maintained a positive attitude to the end and defended his good name, refuting accusations of extremism.

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    August 21, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance Interrogation

    The judge announces the death of Sergei Ushakhin and invites the defendant's wife Natalia to participate in the criminal case. When asked by the judge about the possibility of terminating the criminal case against her husband, she replies that Sergey is not guilty of anything, and asks to continue the consideration of the case in order to achieve an acquittal of her husband's good name. The Court granted her request.

    The prosecution is questioning witnesses. Most of them, answering questions, use Article 51 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

    The judge interrogates Aleksandr Kruglyakov. The defendant uses quotations from the Bible in his testimony and receives a remark for this - according to the judge, there is no need for this. The defense objected, explaining that the Bible at one time helped Kruglyakov to change for the better.

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    September 14, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The questioning of prosecution witnesses is ongoing. Aleksandr Kruglyakov protests against the leading questions that the prosecutor asks one of the witnesses in order to obtain the testimony necessary for the prosecution. The judge provides.

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    October 17, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance Interrogation

    The state prosecutor files a motion for the disclosure of the testimony of a witness - a representative of law enforcement agencies, since there are a number of significant contradictions regarding the status and date of the search.

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    October 25, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance Interrogation

    A prosecution witness, a former Jehovah's Witness, is being questioned. He says that he has no personal animosity towards the defendants, there were no conflicts with them, but in general he is opposed to believers.

    Some of his testimonies do not agree or have significant contradictions with the testimony given during the preliminary investigation. The prosecutor asks that they be read out of the case file.

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    October 31, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance Interrogation

    22 people come to support the defendants.

    Alexander Kruglyakov testifies. He reports that his actions, recorded by the investigating authorities during the investigation, have nothing to do with extremism.

    The defendant also petitions for the exclusion from the case file of the protocols of interrogations of one of the prosecution witnesses, conducted by two different investigators, since they were drawn up with violations. Kruglyakov points out that in the interrogations of the witness different data are given, although no more than 5 days passed between them. At the same time, there are exactly the same proposals in the protocols. On this basis, Alexander concludes that some passages of the text were copied and there was no actual interrogation of the witness.

    In addition, the defendant files a motion to cancel the measure of restraint due to the fact that most of the witnesses in the case have already been questioned at the trial and not a single one has confirmed Kruglyakov's involvement in the alleged crime. The court refuses.

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    November 28, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance Expert studies with violations

    The state prosecutor reads out the conclusion of the religious forensic examination, which was carried out by the expert of the Kazan Interregional Center of Expertise, the head of the Department of Religious Studies of the Kazan Federal University Larisa Astakhova. Alexander Kruglyakov asks to conduct a study of this examination as non-compliant with the requirements and allow him to comment on the results. The judge refuses.

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    November 30, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance Elderly

    14 people come to support the believers. The prosecution continues to consider the conclusion of the religious forensic examination.

    After about an hour, the defendant Lydia Nekrasova becomes ill, and the judge stops the hearing.

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    December 6, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The court selectively reads out volumes of the case materials. Among them is a religious examination carried out by Larisa Astakhova. Alexander Kruglyakov draws the judge's attention to the fact that some sheets of this examination do not match. He asks to be excluded from the case file as improperly prepared, but the judge refuses.

    Further court hearings scheduled for December are postponed due to the upcoming operation on Andrei Kharlamov.

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    January 25, 2024 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    After the operation, Kharlamov needs rehabilitation. Despite this, he comes to the hearing, but after 40 minutes he feels worse. He asks to postpone the hearings, as doctors recommend that he rest. The judge grants the request. Hearings in the case will not take place until at least the end of March.

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    February 20, 2024 Hearing in a court of the first instance Elderly

    The judge postpones the hearing for several reasons: Andrey Kharlamov continues treatment after surgery; Lydia Nekrasova's husband died.

    At the next hearing, the state prosecutor plans to continue reading out the case materials.