Case of the Mikhaylovs and Others in Shuya

Case History

Wiretapping, the introduction of a provocateur, hidden video filming in the homes of believers — this began the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the city of Shuya in the spring of 2017. A year later, the Investigative Committee opened a criminal case under three extremist articles against peaceful believer Dmitry Mikhailov. In April and June 2018, the homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses were searched: believers were treated rudely, pressured, and even a 10-year-old girl was interrogated. After the searches, new defendants appeared in the case: Elena Mikhailova, Svetlana Ryzhkova, Svetlana Shishina and Alexey Arkhipov. Dmitry spent 6 months in a pre-trial detention center. In September 2019, the investigator handed over the case to the prosecutor, but a year later he returned it for further investigation. The criminal case went to court in July 2021, but the judge returned it to the prosecutor for revision. The retrial of the case in the same court began in May 2022.

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    Spring 2017

    A certain "Nicholas", pretending to be interested in the Bible, meets with believers, asks questions about God, attends divine services. The nature of his questions, as well as the peculiarities of his behavior, lead believers to suspect that the man is a provocateur.

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    September 21, 2017

    Judge of the Ivanovo Regional Court A.V. Plyukhanov authorizes the ORM "Wiretapping" of Mikhailova D.V.

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    January 15, 2018

    Judge of the Ivanovo Regional Court O.V. Mutovkina authorizes "secret inspection of premises, buildings, structures", as well as secret "observation" using audio-video recording in the home of the believer Ryzhkova S.A.

    Over the next 3 months, operational-search measures are being carried out, including wiretapping of believers' phones and secret video filming.

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    April 19, 2018

    Senior investigator of the Komsomolsk Interdistrict Investigation Department, seconded to the Investigation Department for the city of Shuya of the Investigative Department for the Ivanovo Region, Captain of Justice Robert Barseghyan, initiates a criminal case.

    Sergey Garber, a judge of the Shuisky City Court, authorizes a search in the house of Dmitry Mikhailov.

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    April 20, 2018

    Early in the morning in the city of Shuya, searches are simultaneously carried out in 4 apartments of citizens who are suspected of professing the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses.

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    May 15, 2018 Search
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    May 29, 2018

    Dmitry Mikhailov was taken into custody. A case is also being opened against him on charges of "financing" extremist activities (Part 1 of Article 282.3 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).

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    May 31, 2018

    Dmitry Mikhailov is being interrogated as an accused.

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    June 1, 2018
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    June 20, 2018

    In response to an open collective letter from the wives of citizens arrested for their faith, including Elena Mikhailova, the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights asks the Prosecutor General's Office to check the legality and validity of the criminal prosecution of Jehovah's Witnesses: "Accusations of citizens that they read the Bible together and pray to God are interpreted as "continuation of the activities of an extremist organization." The Council considers that such an interpretation is not consistent with the legal position of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation."

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    June 22, 2018

    A case is being initiated against D.V. Mikhailov under Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

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    June 26, 2018

    New searches in the homes of citizens believed to be Jehovah's Witnesses.

    After new searches, believers are taken to the body of the Investigative Committee. A 10-year-old girl was also taken there and interrogated there. During the interrogation, in the presence of the school psychologist, the child is forced to reveal the religion of the family, she cries. Her mother threatens that if she refuses to cooperate with the investigation, she may be charged with another crime - "involving minors in the commission of a crime."

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    June 27, 2018

    A criminal case is being initiated against Dmitry Mikhailov's wife, Yelena, as well as Svetlana Ryzhkova and Svetlana Shishina under Part 1 of Article 282.3 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (financing of extremist activities). Women are interrogated as suspects and signed recognizances.

    The investigator is also interrogating Aleksey Arkhipov.

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    July 9, 2018

    Investigator A. A. Ryazantsev also prosecutes Elena Mikhailova and Aleksey Arkhipov under Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, interrogates them and takes written undertakings not to leave the place from the believers.

    He also prosecutes Svetlana Ryzhkova under Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code (organization of extremist activity). The investigator interrogates the believer and takes from her a written undertaking not to leave the place.

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    July 10, 2018
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    November 15, 2018

    The Court of Appeal reverses the decision on the further detention of Dmitry Mikhailov. He is leaving pre-trial detention center No. 1 in the Ivanovo region after spending almost six months in it.

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    November 16, 2018
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    December 19, 2018

    Investigator Pochernikov V.F. makes a decision on the appointment of sociological, religious and religious forensic examinations in relation to Dmitry Mikhailov. The expert is Belova Tatyana Pavlovna, Candidate of Philosophical Sciences of Ivanovo State University.

    Also, the investigator decides to conduct a forensic linguistic examination of Dmitry in the Forensic Center of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia in the Ivanovo region.

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    May 29, 2019

    The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention condemns the arrests of Jehovah's Witnesses and demands that Russia immediately release Dmitry Mikhailov. His arrest was recognized as a manifestation of religious discrimination. The document stresses that the findings "apply to all other persons in circumstances similar to those in which Mr. Mikhailov is."

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    June 5, 2019
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    September 18, 2019

    The preliminary investigation into the criminal case against the Mikhailov spouses and others has been completed.

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    December 8, 2020

    First Deputy Prosecutor of the Ivanovo Region, Senior Counselor of Justice Alexei Borzdy returns the materials of the criminal case of the Mikhailov spouses and others in Shuya to the investigator for especially important cases D. P. Yakovlev for additional investigation. The resolution states: "When studying the materials of the criminal case, violations of the norms of the Code of Criminal Procedure were revealed, preventing the approval of the indictment and sending it to court."

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    July 1, 2021

    The case of believers is submitted to the Shuisky City Court of the Ivanovo Region for consideration by Judge Ekaterina Demina.

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    August 10, 2021 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The first court hearing is held. Listeners are not allowed into the hall.

    The defendants state that they did not have time to familiarize themselves with the last volumes of the case (19-21). Dmitry Mikhailov says that the investigator put pressure on the defendants to sign a protocol on "acquaintance in full." The court grants the defendants' request to familiarize themselves with the last volumes of the case.

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    September 15, 2021 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    There are about 20 people in the courthouse who came to support the defendants. Dmitry Mikhailov declares his refusal of the public defender, explaining that he will defend himself.

    Svetlana Shishina files a petition to refuse a lawyer appointed by the court, as she has an agreement with another lawyer who was "removed by the investigator illegally."

    The court raises the issue of returning the criminal case to the prosecutor in connection with the violation of Shishina's right to defense. State prosecutor Bikulov states that the rights of the defendant were not violated. The judge retires to the deliberation room to make a decision.

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    September 16, 2021

    Judge of the Shuisky City Court of the Ivanovo Region Ekaterina Demina returns the criminal case to the prosecutor for revision.

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    May 11, 2022

    The criminal case, after revision by the prosecutor, goes to the Shuisky City Court of the Ivanovo Region. Referee: Anton Mokin.

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    June 8, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The defendants express their attitude to the charge. The judge allows the defendants to speak without ever interrupting, and attaches their statements to the materials of the criminal case.

    Alexei Arkhipov says: "The accusation against me has been repeated many times, but you can't call it new, since everything was rewritten to the comma from time to time, which confirms its inconsistency and gross violation of my rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution of the Russian Federation."

    "I do not understand the essence of the charge," Dmitry Mikhailov is perplexed. Am I forbidden to profess the Christian faith of Jehovah's Witnesses, to pray, read and discuss the Bible with friends? Either the prosecution is unable to give an answer, or purposefully evades it, because it understands that honest answers to the above questions will reveal the groundlessness and illegality of the criminal prosecution.

    Elena Mikhailova claims: "The accusation is not specified. It does not indicate: when and under what circumstances I allegedly promoted superiority on the basis of religious affiliation, what words I used to express a negative assessment of any persons, how exactly I allegedly coordinated my actions to finance an extremist organization ... I have never committed any crimes, I have never engaged in and do not intend to engage in extremist activities."

    The protocol of the interrogation of student Artem Khamidov, who was present several times at the services of Jehovah's Witnesses in Shuya, is considered. He took notes of the meetings and subsequently handed them over to the police.

    The record of the interrogation of the secret witness "Ivanova" records that she attended meetings of Jehovah's Witnesses from 2003 to 2011, and states: "Religion was for the preservation of the family, so if persons who were married, but with different religious views, joined this organization, then this was not forbidden."

    One of the witnesses describes Alexei Arkhipov, who worked for him as a bus driver for 6 years, "exclusively on the positive side: hardworking, conscientious, attentive to passengers."

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    January 19, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Video recordings of spiritual meetings of believers are examined. The defendants draw the court's attention to the fact that the recordings record conversations about the Bible. At the same time, there are no signs of extremism in the conversations - the participants discuss how to show love to others, regardless of their religion. Thus, believers exercise the right to profess their religion together with others (Constitution of the Russian Federation, Article 28).

    In addition, the video recordings recorded personal conversations that are not related to the charge.

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    February 16, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Judge Anton Mokin reports that the Shuisky City Court received an appeal from a certain Konstantin, who called himself a caring citizen of the Russian Federation. The letter says: "I am convinced that the criminal case opened under extremist articles of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation against the above-mentioned persons [Arkhipov, Mikhailov, Ryzhkov, Shishin] is some kind of monstrous legal error, some kind of misunderstanding that needs to be corrected as soon as possible. After all, as far as I know, they are all very good people. They have nothing to do with extremism. Yes, they are believers, but accusing them of extremism because of their faith is absurd, and I'm sorry, it's not in any gate ... (In general, Jehovah's Witnesses are known for their deep decency and law-abiding.) In my opinion, some unjustified religious repressions are being carried out in the country. And this is outrageous! Although, to be honest, it is very difficult in our time to fully trust the justice system, I still hope for the competence, common sense, humanity of the court and that these respected people will be acquitted by the court.

    P.S. Please do not regard this appeal as interference in the activities of the judge in the administration of justice, but simply consider it an expression of the opinion of a representative of Russian society on what is happening.

    Video recordings of religious meetings of believers are studied. The defendants explain that by discussing the Bible and telling others about it, they are exercising a constitutional right guaranteed by Article 28 – the right to jointly profess any religion with others and to disseminate religious beliefs, including those of Jehovah's Witnesses, which are not prohibited in Russia.

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    May 10, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Audio recordings of telephone conversations of believers are studied.

    In the course of the study, the defendants explain that when believers exchange thoughts about biblical teachings, they thus exercise their legal right, guaranteed by Article 28 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation: to jointly profess with others any religion, including the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses, which is not prohibited by law.

    In addition, the defendants explain that in telephone conversations the issue of providing material assistance to a family with a sick child in need of urgent treatment is discussed. Such financial assistance cannot be interpreted as financing an extremist organization (Article 282.3 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).

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    December 19, 2023 Closing arguments for the defense Prosecutor requested punishment Fine Elderly

    The prosecution is requesting punishment for believers in the form of large fines: Dmitry Mikhailov - 1,200,000 rubles, taking into account the time of detention; Elena Mikhailova and Svetlana Ryzhkova — 600,000 rubles each; Svetlana Shishina and Alexei Arkhipov — 400,000 rubles each. Prior to the entry into force of the verdict, the prosecutor asks the court to take a written undertaking not to leave the place from the believers.

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    January 24, 2024 In the courtroom Final statement Prosecution of several family members Elderly

    The defendants address the court with the last word.

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    January 29, 2024 Art. 282.2 (1) Art. 282.2 (2) Art. 282.3 (1) First Instance Sentence Secret witness Tapping and hidden surveillance Fine Minors Elderly Prosecution of several family members

    Referee: Anton Mokin. Shuisky City Court of Ivanovo Region (Shuya, Komsomolskaya Square, 19). Time: 10:00.