Unjust Verdicts

The Cassation Court in Krasnodar Ultimately Upheld the Verdict Against Lyudmila Shchekoldina.  The Believer Has Been Behind Bars for Ten Month

Krasnodar Territory

On March 23, 2023, the Fourth Court of Cassation of General Jurisdiction in Krasnodar, chaired by Oleg Maslov, did not change the verdict against Lyudmila Shchekoldina, who was convicted for her faith.

In May 2022, the court of first instance sentenced the believer to four years and one month in prison. The woman was taken into custody in the courtroom and placed in a pre-trial detention center, where she spent four and a half months. In October 2022, the appellate court upheld the verdict. Since November of the same year, Lyudmila has been in a penal colony in the Volgograd region.

Disagreeing with the decisions of the courts, Shchekoldina and her lawyer filed a cassation appeal. It states: “Several families of the Christian denomination peacefully gathered together, read and discussed the Bible, prayed, and sang religious songs. The [criminal] prosecution was carried out, not because [Lyudmila] committed a crime, but because of who she is—one of Jehovah's Witnesses.”

In convicting Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, the courts fail to consider that the Russian Federation has repeatedly and publicly confirmed the right of Jehovah's Witnesses to profess and disseminate their faith after the liquidation of the relevant legal entities. Back in 2018, the Government of the Russian Federation stated the following at a UN session: “The ban on the activities of the organization 'Jehovah’s Witnesses' does not in itself restrict the right to freedom of religion of its supporters, who still have the right to practice their religious rites, provided that the form of such practice does not contradict the norms of Russian legislation.

Despite this, 694 of Jehovah's Witnesses are under criminal prosecution in Russia. Lyudmila Shchekoldina is one of four women currently serving their sentences in the country's penal colonies.

Case of Shchekoldina in Pavlovskaya

Case History
In April 2020, the FSB opened a criminal case against Lyudmila Shchekoldina from the village of Pavlovskaya. The accusation was based on the report of the agent of the special services Ilchenko that the believer allegedly tried to involve him in the activities of an extremist organization. This is how the investigation regarded his conversations with Shchekoldina on biblical topics. After a 9-hour search of the woman’s house and interrogation, they took a written undertaking not to leave the place. In May 2021, the case went to court. A year later, the court sentenced the believer to 4 years and 1 month in a penal colony. The appellate court upheld the verdict in October 2022. In March 2023, the cassation court did not change this decision. In the colony, Lyudmila’s health deteriorated and she was scheduled for surgery. For six months, the believer endured severe pain, and only in August 2023 did the administration of the colony allow her to receive the necessary treatment.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Krasnodar Territory
Suspected of:
According to the investigation, she "committed deliberate actions aimed at involving ... in the activities of an extremist organization ... by describing the attractiveness of serving Jehovah."
Court case number:
April 23, 2020
Current case stage:
the verdict entered into force
Krasnodar Territory Directorate of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1.1), 282.2 (2)
Court case number:
1-25/2022 (1-103/2021)
Павловский районный суд Краснодарского края
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Ольга Марченко
Case History