In the photo: Roman Gridasov (left) and Gennady German (right) were released. They were greeted by family and friends

Served Sentences

Jehovah's Witnesses from Saratov Gennadiy German and Roman Gridasov Released

Saratov Region

On July 29, 2021, Gennadiy German and Roman Gridasov, having served their sentences in full, were released. At the entrance to the Orenburg colony No. 1, they were welcomed by their friends and loved ones who had arrived from Saratov 800 kilometers away. Thus, five out of six Saratov believers have been released from prison.

Gennadiy and Roman ended up behind bars as a result of an unfair accusation of extremism. On September 19, 2019, the Lenin District Court of Saratov sentenced them to 2 years in prison, despite the fact that the prosecutor requested 6 years. The believers spent a year and 10 months behind bars.

Upon arrival of Roman and Gennadшy at the colony, the staff of the institution kicked and beat them with truncheons which resulted in the worsening of their chronic diseases. Gridasov's wife related: "The husband has noticeably lost weight, there is a strong internal tension, but he is holding on." Nevertheless, Gennadiy and Roman managed to support their families emotionally and maintain good relations with other prisoners.

The believers were repeatedly sent to punishment cells on ridiculous false accusations, for example, “smoking in the wrong place” (Jehovah's Witnesses do not smoke for religious reasons). The prison authorities imposed unreasonable penalties on them, for example, for an unmade bed. “Violations in the colony are very easy to find. And if the administration wants, they will quickly organize them,” said the wife of Aleksey Budenchuk, who has already been released from this colony after serving his sentence. After the believers filed a petition to replace their unserved part of the sentence with a fine, Gennadiy was reprimanded for allegedly not greeting the colony staff. Later, German and Gridasov were transferred to a detachment with more difficult conditions of detention.

In the colony, the believers worked in the sewing industry. Roman also mastered the profession of a cook. Gennadiy worked for a month and a half in the packing department. Due to the lack of air and light at the workplace, his health deteriorated. Both prisoners suffered from viral diseases. Their lawyer said: "The believers are forced to work from morning to evening ... Conditions in the colony are bad ... The clothes are of poor quality... In the summer it is very difficult to get permission to take off their thick clothes ... Their state of health has deteriorated, they have lost weight." Due to faulty payphones, German and Gridasov were limited in communication with their wives, but they were supported by letters from fellow believers from different countries. Friends from Orenburg often paid for food for them.

The EU countries express their concern over the situation around Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, declaring: “All people, including Jehovah's Witnesses, should be able to peacefully enjoy their human rights, including the right to freedom of religion or belief ... without discrimination, which is guaranteed by the Constitution of the Russian Federation, Russia's commitments with OSCE and international commitments."

Case of Bazhenov and Others in Saratov

Case History
In September 2019, Judge Dmitry Larin immediately sent 6 Saratov residents to prison for a term of 2 to 3.5 years just for reading the Bible, singing songs and praying. Since 2017, security forces have been conducting covert surveillance of believers. In the summer of 2018, their homes were searched with banned literature planted. While the investigation was underway, they had to go to a pre-trial detention center, under house arrest and under recognizance not to leave. A year later, despite the absence of victims in the case, the believers were found guilty. Upon arrival at the Orenburg colony, 5 out of 6 convicted believers were beaten by the staff of the institution. Mahammadiev was hospitalized, and the rest were placed in a punishment cell for a while. Saratov prisoners of conscience have mastered various professions in prison. In May 2020, Mahammadiev and Bazhenov were stripped of their Russian citizenship and, after their release, deported from Russia. All 6 believers have already served their sentences. In September 2022, the cassation court dismissed the complaint, and the verdict and the appellate ruling were unchanged.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Saratov Region
Locality:
Saratov
Suspected of:
according to the investigation, together with others he conducted religious services, which is interpreted as “organising the activity of an extremist organisation” (with reference to the decision of the Russian Supreme Court on the liquidation of all 396 registered organisations of Jehovah’s Witnesses)
Court case number:
11807630001000037
Initiated:
June 9, 2018
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigating:
Investigative Department of the Directorate of the FSB of Russia for the Saratov Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
1-333/2019
Case History