Legal Victories

Court of Appeal in Khabarovsk Replaced the Term of Imprisonment for Aleksey Ukhov with a Suspended Sentence

Khabarovsk Territory

On July 18, 2023, the Khabarovsk Regional Court commuted the sentence of Aleksey Ukhov in the case for his faith, replacing the actual imprisonment with a suspended one. Although the believer has been found guilty, he will not have to go to prison. However, the term of the sentence was retained: 6 years and 6 months.

The 43-year-old believer was charged with "studying and quoting texts of the Holy Scriptures". In his appeal against the verdict, he stated: “Without grounds the court considered it a crime that I peacefully practiced the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses together with others… I lead a peaceful life, respect authority and observe the law, because I am a believer… I was convicted only for my faith in God.”

Referring to the position of the RF Supreme Court which did not ban the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses and did not assess the legitimacy of the religious beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses and how they express them, Ukhov noted: “Despite the liquidation of the legal entities, I still have the right to freely practice the religion of my choice, including reading the Bible and discussing it with others, praying to God, singing songs in praise of God and talking to others about my faith.”

The Khabarovsk Territory has the second highest number of Jehovah's Witnesses considered as criminals by the authorities only because of their faith in Jehovah God. To date, 30 people have become victims of religious repression, 12 of whom were given various suspended sentences and fines; 4 have already served their sentences.

In April 2023, the human rights organization, Amnesty International, speaking about the significant expansion of the scope of Russia's application of legislation on countering "extremism" and "terrorism", noted: "Representatives of some peaceful religious denominations, including Jehovah's Witnesses, are more often groundlessly subjected to criminal liability".

The Case of Ukhov in Sovetskaya Gavan

Case History
In October 2020, a 5-hour search took place in the house of the Ukhovs — graphic artist Aleksey and X-ray technician Liliya — after which Aleksey was detained and five days later sent 540 kilometers from home to Khabarovsk SIZO No. 1 for a forced psychiatric examination. The reason for treating a peaceful believer from Sovetskaya Gavan like this, was that the day before an FSB investigator had initiated a criminal case against Ukhov under an article for extremism. According to the investigation, he “performed actions aimed at reading prayers… studying and citing texts of the Holy Scriptures… and the Psalms.” While behind bars, Aleksey was illegally deprived of letters of support from relatives and friends for about 3 months. In July 2021, Aleksey was released from the detention center under a recognizance agreement, and in August the case went to court. In March 2023, the believer was sentenced to 6.5 years in a penal colony. However, in July, the court of appeal replaced the actual imprisonment with a suspended one for the same duration.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Khabarovsk Territory
Locality:
Sovetskaya Gavan
Suspected of:
"performed actions aimed at reading prayers ... studying and quoting the texts of the Holy Scriptures ... and psalm songs"
Court case number:
12007080001000073
Initiated:
October 21, 2020
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigating:
Khabarovsk Territory Directorate of the Federal Security Service of Russia
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
1-207/2021
Court:
Советско-Гаванский городской суд Хабаровского края
Judge:
Виктория Анохина
Case History