Lyubov Ovchinnikova and Lyubov Kocherova, July 2023

Unjust Verdicts

Appeal in Khabarovsk Overturned the Conviction of Two Pensioners. The Case Will Be Considered by the Same Court in a Different Composition

Khabarovsk Territory

On December 5, 2023, a panel of judges of the Khabarovsk Regional Court overturned the sentence of Lyubov Kocherova and Lyubov Ovchinnikova from the village of Knyaze-Volkonskoye — 6 years of suspended sentence for believing in Jehovah God — and sent the case back for a new trial. The court thus granted the prosecutor's appeal.

The case will be heard in the same court that passed the original verdict (Khabarovsk District Court), but with a different composition of judges.

Lyubov Kocherova emphasized in her appeal: "The court did not substantiate in the verdict why the peaceful way of expressing faith in God was regarded by the court as a way of committing a crime." She also noted: "The Constitution of the Russian Federation allows me to believe." Lyubov Ovchinnikova pointed out: "The court verdict is an act of direct and indirect gross religious discrimination."

In an additional appeal, the defense drew attention to the fact that the lower court, when considering a criminal case, did not establish what specific actions directly aimed at continuing the activities of any banned organization were committed by the women. In other words, the court did not identify the crime as such.

Persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses continues in the Khabarovsk Territory. The convictions of 17 believers in the region have already entered into force.

Case of Kocherova and Ovchinnikova in Knyaze-Volkonskoye

Case History
From April 2020, on the instructions of the FSB, one of the residents of the village of Knyaz-Volkonskoy began recording conversations about the Bible with Lyubov Kocherova and Lyubov Ovchinnikova. Two years later, a criminal case was initiated against the pensioners for allegedly recruiting and participating in the activity of an extremist organization. They were accused of “asking questions on religious topics regarding… understanding the Bible.” In March 2023, the case went to court. In August 2023, Kocherova and Ovchinnikova were each given a 6-year suspended sentence.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Khabarovsk Territory
Locality:
Knyaz-Volkonskoye
Suspected of:
"collectively sang religious songs, prayers, which are a product in the structure of the world organization of Jehovah's Witnesses" (from the decision to bring as an accused)
Court case number:
12202080023000024
Initiated:
May 26, 2022
Current case stage:
trial in court of first instance
Investigating:
Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee for the Khabarovsk Territory and the Jewish Autonomous Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1.1), 282.2 (2)
Court case number:
1-215/2023
Court of First Instance:
Хабаровский районный суд Хабаровского края
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Ангелина Свидерская
Case History