Konstantin and Anatstasiya Guzev, Birobidzhan, May 13, 2021

Unjust Verdicts

An Appeal in Birobidzhan Upheld the Conditional Sentence of 56-Year-Old Believer Konstantin Guzev

Jewish Autonomous Area

On May 13, 2021, the Court of the Jewish Autonomous Region upheld the sentence to Konstantin Guzev from Birobidzhan - 2.5 years of suspended imprisonment with restriction of liberty for 1 year.

The verdict entered into force. The believer still insists on his innocence. He has the right to appeal against the verdict in cassation procedure, as well as in international instances.

On February 18, 2021, the judge of the Birobidzhan District Court of the Jewish Autonomous Region, Aleksey Ivashchenko, sentenced law-abiding builder Konstantin Guzev to 2.5 years of suspended imprisonment under Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation with restriction of liberty for 1 year. He was assigned a probationary period of 2 years with the obligation to report to the supervisory authority once a month.

The prosecutor asked for a punishment for the believer in the form of 4 years of imprisonment in a general regime colony.

Konstantin's wife, Anastasiya Guzeva, is also persecuted for her faith in God. Due to discrimination on religious grounds, the spouses were forced to resign from the music school where they worked. The leadership motivated this by the fact that there is no place for “extremists” in a children's institution. Guzev spent the last year and a half under recognizance not to leave.

In his appeal to the Court of the Jewish Autonomous Region, the believer stated: “Singing religious songs based on the Bible, praying to God, reading and discussing the Bible together is a way for a believer to practice his religion, guaranteed by both national and international law. . . . The decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation in 2017 did not oblige me to give up my faith in God and stop worshiping based on my religious beliefs. . . . Thus, the actual purpose of the sentence is to violate my fundamental rights and force me, on pain of criminal prosecution, to change my religion or leave the Russian Federation. ”

On May 17, 2018, a large-scale operation codenamed “Judjement Day” took place in Birobidzhan with the participation of 150 security officials, which resulted in a series of searches and arrests. The security forces tried to get to the Guzevs, claiming that their neighbors had a burglary. The owners did not believe them, but were forced to let the operatives in after the threat of breaking the doors.

Describing his feelings in connection with the criminal prosecution, Konstantin shared: “The interrogations and constant humiliation by the investigators hurt me a lot. For twenty years I have completely lost the habit of rudeness, humiliation, insults and constant lies. This was perhaps the most difficult for me. "

In the Jewish Autonomous Region, one of the regions with the largest number of criminal cases against Jehovah's Witnesses, 19 cases were initiated against 23 believers.

The charge against Konstantin Guzev was based on video recordings secretly filmed during the services, and on the testimony of police officer Yulia Zvereva, who could not tell anything about the events imputed to the believer.

Konstantin Guzev, like many of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, was convicted under a criminal article only for the peaceful confession of faith in God.

The delegation of the Russian Federation has repeatedly assured the OSCE that "individual Jehovah's Witnesses can practice their religion at home, since permission is not required to pray in Russia." However, representatives of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe note that "they have repeatedly witnessed that in the case of Jehovah's Witnesses, any manifestation of faith can lead to a search, lengthy detention, criminal prosecution and imprisonment."

Case of Guzev in Birobidzhan

Case History
In February 2021, the Birobidzhan District Court of the Jewish Autonomous Region sentenced Konstantin Guzev to 2,5 years of suspended imprisonment. A criminal case for faith under Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation against a law-abiding builder-repairman was opened in May 2018. A similar case was brought against his wife, Anastasia. Since December 2019, his case has been considered by judge Alexei Ivashchenko. At the hearing, the prosecutor called Konstantin’s house a “crime scene” because he was discussing the Bible with friends via video link. The prosecutor requested 4 years in prison for the believer. In May 2021, the appellate court upheld the verdict, but in December 2021, the court of cassation overturned it and returned the case to the appeal stage. In March 2022, the court of the Jewish Autonomous Region in a different composition again approved the conviction. The court of cassation overturned this decision and sent the case for a new appeal. In July 2022, a decision was made to expunge the criminal record.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Jewish Autonomous Area
Suspected of:
according to the investigation he together with others conducted religious services, which is interpreted as “organising the activity of an extremist organisation” (with reference to the decision of the Russian Supreme Court on the liquidation of all 396 registered organisations of Jehovah’s Witnesses)
Court case number:
July 29, 2019
Current case stage:
the verdict entered into force
Investigative Department of the Directorate of the FSB of Russia for the Jewish Autonomous Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (2)
Court case number:
1-12/2021 (1-49/2020; 1-625/2019)
Биробиджанский районный суд ЕАО
Алексей Иващенко
Case History