Maykop City Court found Nikolay Voishchev guilty of extremism for conversations about God

Unjust Verdicts

A Court in Adygea Sent Nikolay Voishchev, 68, to a Penal Colony for Three Years


On September 14, 2023, the Judge
Zaurbiy Birzhev of the Maykop City Court, found Nikolay Voishchev guilty of extremism only because of his faith. Taking into account the fact that the elderly believer has already served 329 days in jail, he will have to spend another year and a half behind bars, despite his serious illness.

During the court deliberations, the prosecutor requested for Voishchev, seven years of imprisonment in a penal colony with deprivation of the right to engage in activities related to leadership and participation in the work of public organizations for five years and restriction of liberty for one year. The judge decided to sentence Nikolay to imprisonment for three years in a penal colony with deprivation of the right to engage in educational activities, as well as activities related to leadership and participation in religious, public associations and organizations for four years and with restriction of liberty for one year.

In his last word in court, the believer stated: "The prosecution asks to sentence me to seven years . . . For being an honest person who respects the laws of the country . . . Seven years for being a good neighbor . . . As one of Jehovah's Witnesses, observing and using Article 28 of the Russian Constitution. Seven years for never having committed any criminal acts."

Nikolay Voishchev ended up behind bars back in October 2022. Investigator Zaurbiy Blyagoz initiated a criminal case against him under Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code, claiming that he "organized and conducted secret meetings together with other [Jehovah's Witnesses]." The arrest was preceded by a series of searches in the city of  Maykop.

The accusation against the believer was based on the testimony of two secret witnesses. During interrogation in court, they could only confirm that Voishchev was one of Jehovah's Witnesses, which he did not hide anyway. The witnesses did not hear any extremist calls from him. Another piece of evidence for the prosecution was the psycholinguistic examination of hidden video recordings of worship services, in which believers peacefully discuss the Bible. Ruslan Levinsky, who performed the examination, does not have a higher linguistic education. The lawyer provided the opinion of the religious scholar Yekaterina Elbakyan, according to the conclusions of which "the conclusion of the expert [Levinsky] is not based on the provisions of generally accepted scientific data in the field of religious studies, the conclusions of the expert's opinion seem to be unfounded."

Even before his arrest, Voishchev was diagnosed with having a tumor that required immediate treatment. Also, due to an injury suffered in his youth, Nikolay suffers from severe headaches. The conditions of detention and the lack of proper treatment led to a deterioration of the health of the believer. He still needs medical attention.

Already four Jehovah's Witnesses from Maykop have faced persecution for their faith. The world community and the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation stated that "the joint performance of rites and ceremonies [of Jehovah's Witnesses] does not in itself constitute a crime under Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, despite the liquidation of their legal entities."

Case of Voishchev in Maykop

Case History
In October 2022, an investigator of the Investigative Committee opened a criminal case on extremism against Nikolai Voishchev, a Jehovah’s Witness from Maykop. The investigation interpreted the discussion of the Bible with fellow believers via video link as extremist activity. A man with a serious illness ended up in jail only because of his faith. The case went to court in December 2022. The case involved the testimony of two secret witnesses and an examination that the defense considers unscientific. The believer was sentenced to 3 years in prison in September 2023.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Suspected of:
"organized and conducted secret meetings together with other members and followers of the religious movement of Jehovah's Witnesses, through personal communication, telephone conversations and the Internet" (from the decision to prosecute as an accused)
Court case number:
October 19, 2022
Current case stage:
the verdict entered into force
Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Republic of Adygea
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
1-163/2023 (1-801/2022)
Court of First Instance:
Майкопский городской суд Республики Адыгея
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Заурбий Биржев
Case History