Vladivostok, Primorsky Krai

Unjust Verdicts

The Court of Cassation Upheld the Sentence for Their Faith Against Four Jehovah's Witnesses from Primorye Territory, Including a Disabled Woman

Primorye Territory

On October 16, 2023, the Ninth General Jurisdiction Court of Cassation upheld the verdict against believers from Spassk-Dalniy. Dmitriy Malevaniy, Aleksey Trofimov, and Olga Panyuta will continue to serve their sentences in the penal colony, and Olga Opaleva will continue to serve a suspended sentence.

All four believe that they were convicted simply because they are Jehovah's Witnesses. The court sentenced Malevaniy, Trofimov and Panyuta from 4.5 to 7 years in a penal colony. Opaleva, who suffered a stroke during the trial, received a 5-year suspended sentence. Later, the court of appeal reduced the sentence insignificantly.

Back in 2018, the Government of the Russian Federation, in response to the demands of the UN Human Rights Council, expressed its official position regarding Jehovah's Witnesses: "The ban on the activities of the organization 'Jehovah’s Witnesses' does not in itself restrict the right to freedom of religion of its supporters, who still have the right to practice their religious rites, provided that the form of such practice does not contradict the norms of Russian legislation." Despite this, believers across the country continue to be found guilty of extremism for peaceful religious practices.

Case of Malevaniy and Others in Spassk-Dalny

Case History
In the fall of 2018, searches were carried out in Spassk-Dalny at the homes of Dmitry Malevany, Alexei Trofimov, Olga Panyuta, Olga Opaleva and their fellow believers. The reason for the persecution of civilians was their faith in Jehovah God. The believers were accused of organizing the activities of an extremist organization and involving others in it. The case is based on the testimony of secret witnesses “Sidorova” and “Ivanova”, who monitored the believers on instructions from the FSB. On the eve of the search, Olga Opaleva suffered a heart attack, and later, on the way to court, a stroke. The four believers spent a year under house arrest, and since November 2019 they have been under a recognizance agreement. In December 2019, the case went to court. In February 2023, the believers were sentenced: Dmitry Malevanoy was given 7 years in a penal colony, Alexey Trofimov  6.5 years in prison, Olga Panyuta - 4.5 years in prison, and Olga Opaleva - 5 years suspended. The appeal reduced each of these terms by two months, the cassation supported this decision.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Primorye Territory
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:
November 12, 2018
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigative Department of the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of Russia for the Primorskiy Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1), 282.2 (1.1)
Court case number:
1-4/2023 (1-4/2022; 1-7/2021; 1-70/2020; 1-570/2019)
Court of First Instance:
Спасский районный суд Приморского края
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Павел Бобрович
Case History