Rustam Seidkuliev on the day of the verdict. Saratov. May 2021

Unjust Verdicts

The Appeal Reduced by Two Months the Prison Term Assigned to One of Jehovah's Witnesses From Saratov Rustam Seidkuliev

Saratov Region

On August 5, 2021, the Saratov Regional Court, having considered the appeal of Rustam Seidkuliev, slightly softened the sentence: now the believer will have to spend 2 years and 4 months behind bars.

The believer has been in jail since the announcement of the verdict by the court of first instance — since May 2021. Seidkuliev asked the appellate court to fully acquit him. He has the right to appeal against the verdict in cassation, as well as in international instances.

Judge of the Leninskiy District Court of Saratov, Andrey Yefimov, found 44-year-old Rustam Seidkuliev guilty of participation in extremist activities in May 2021. He sentenced him to 2.5 years in prison and 1 year of imprisonment. At the same time, there is not a single victim in the case. The prosecutor asked for a punishment for the believer in the form of 4 years of imprisonment in a general regime colony.

Rustam learned that the Saratov law enforcement officers had opened a criminal case against him for extremism in Adler, where he moved with his wife for family reasons. On February 15, 2020, police officers detained him with his wife in a shopping center, then he spent 5 days in a special detention center, and was escorted to Saratov. The believer was under house arrest for seven months.

Rustam recalls: “In the detention centre, I immediately tried to occupy myself with something: I did crosswords, took a book from the library, started a notebook for planning things in the future. In general, I tried to keep the brain busy with something all the time, because then time flows faster and there is no time to lose heart and worry. The first 2 months I was under house arrest not at home and without a wife, and my mother generally stayed in Adler, where I helped her. To be apart from loved ones, of course, is unpleasant, but being busy with some business and planning the day helped not to lose heart and not get upset, because I understood that some of my fellow believers who are now in prisons and colonies are much worse off than to me".

The criminal prosecution deprived Rustam of the opportunity to provide for his family financially. The believer says: “I quit my official job so as not to let clients down in case of my arrest. There were plans to open a photo studio and equipment was purchased for this, but everything had to be sold for next to nothing, as the situation was unstable. "

All the time while Rustam was under house arrest, he was supported by co-religionists. When he was not allowed to leave the house for walks, they helped the Seidkulievs as much as they could: they repaired the roof, weeded the weeds in the yard, and helped the family financially. During the court hearings, believers who were not allowed into the courtroom cheered Rustam with applause and words of support.

The court hearings in the case of Seidkuliev in the Leninskiy District Court began more than a year after his arrest and lasted only a month. Despite the lack of evidence of his guilt, the believer was sentenced to imprisonment, in fact, for talking about the Bible.

“[During the court hearings] it was not taken into account that the Russian Federation has repeatedly publicly reaffirmed the right of believers of Jehovah's Witnesses to profess and spread their faith after the liquidation of their legal entities... the collection of information about my personal life was caused exclusively by my religious affiliation,” Rustam Seidkuliev noted in his appeal.

In September 2019, six peaceful Saratov Jehovah's Witnesses were also sentenced to prison for their faith. Konstantin Bazhenov, Aleksey Budenchuk, Gennadiy German, Roman Gridasov, Feliks Makhammadiyev and Aleksey Miretskiy have already served their sentences. Makhammadiyev and Bazhenov were deported from Russia.

Case of Seidkuliev in Saratov

Case History
In January 2020, the Investigative Committee initiated a criminal case against Rustam Seidkuliev. He was accused of extremism for reading and discussing the Bible. Two weeks later, the police detained a believer in a shopping center in Adler. He was transported to the city of Saratov and placed under house arrest for seven months. In March 2021, Seidkuliev’s case came to court. Two months later he was found guilty and sentenced to two and a half years in a general regime colony. The regional court reduced this period by two months. The Court of Cassation approved this decision. Seidkuliev served his sentence in Penal Colony-33 in Saratov. During this time, the FSB accomplished the revocation of his Russian citizenship. In April 2023, the believer was released from the colony, and in September he was deported to Turkmenistan.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Saratov Region
Court case number:
January 29, 2020
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigative Directorate for the Leninsky District, Saratov, Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Saratov Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (2)
Court case number:
Ленинский районный суд г. Саратова
Андрей Ефимов
Case History