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Case of Yalta “Jehovah’s Witnesses”: From 3 Years Suspended to 6.5 Years in Penal Colony

On February 27, 2023, Vladimir Romanenko, “judge” of “Yalta Town Court”, sentenced Mr.Taras Kuzio to 6.5 years in the penal colony, Mr.Serhiy Liulin and Mr.Petro Zhyl’tsov to 6 years and 1 month in the penal colony, and Mrs.Daria Kuzio to 3 years suspended.

On March 20, 2019, law enforcement men came to the followers with the first search. In March 2021, after the third search, the investigation instituted a criminal case against Mr.Taras Kuzio for “financing the activities of an extremist organization” (RF CC Article 282.2-3), and four months later the investigator charged him additionally with “managing the activities of an extremist organization” ( RF CC Article 282.2-1). In the course of investigation the case was also expanded with new defendants: Mrs.Darya Kuzio, Taras’ wife, and Mr.Serhiy Liulin and Mr.Petro Zhyl’tsov. The investigation in the case lasted for 2 years. Since the moment of detention, Mr.Liulin had been kept in the pre-trial detention center almost for 7 months.

To remind:

  • On March 4, 2021, a criminal case against Mr.Taras Kuzio, a Yalta resident, was initiated. He was accused of financing the extremist organization. Mr.Kuzio’s apartment was searched many times.
  • On March 12, 2021, V.Krapko, a “judge” of “Kievskiy District Court” of Simferopol, placed Mr.Kuzio on house arrest, having taken into account that he was father of two minors.
  • On July 29, 2021, Mr.Petro Zhyl’tsov, aged 33, who had been earlier involved as witness in the case of Taras Kuzio, was arrested in Yalta. Mr.Zhyl’tsov was charged under RF CC Articles 282.3-1 and 282.2-1 (“financing the activities of an extremist organization” and “managing the activities of an extremist organization”). On July 30, 2021, “Yalta Court” decided on placing Mr.Zhyl’tsov on house arrest.
  • The same day, July 29, Novikov, “senior investigator of the 2nd investigation unit of the 1st investigation division of  department for major cases investigation of Main Investigation Department of Investigation Committee of Russian Federation for Republic of Crimea” initiated a criminal case against Mrs.Darya Kuzio, a wife of Taras Kuzio, under RF CC Article 282.3-1 (“financing the activities of an extremist organization”). She was placed under a signature bond as pre-trial restriction.
  • A few months later a criminal case was opened against Mr.Serhiy Liulin and Mr.TAdevos Manukian. Mr.Liulin was detained and placed first in the pre-trial detention center, and on March 2, 2022, – on house arrest. In March 2022, the case of the followers was submitted to the “Yalta Town Court” for consideration by “judge” Vladimir Romanenko.
  • On February 10, 2023, the “prosecutor” demanded the following sentences for “Jehovah’s Witnesses”: 7.5 years of the general regime penal colony for Taras Kuzio, 7 years for Petro Zhyl’tsov and Serhiy Liulin, and 3.5 years for Darya Kuzio, with a sentence service delayed until her junior child became 14 years old.

The CHRG considers these lawsuits both as violation of human rights and the international humanitarian law. Persecution of “Jehovah’s Witnesses” violated Article 9 of European Convention on Human Rights (Freedom of thought, conscience and religion). Moreover, persecuting the persons who are not criminals in terms of Ukrainian law violates Article 7 of the Convention (No punishment without law) since according to the international humanitarian law, Russia has no right to enforce its criminal law in the occupied territory. The violations of the ECHR are under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. On the other hand, enforcing the Russian criminal code in Crimea violates the Fourth Geneva Convention, that constitutes a war crime that falls under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.


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