The ‘Armeniansk Town Court’ and the ‘Yalta Town Court’ in Crimea have launched trials against Jehovah’s Witnesses: Taras Kuzio, Daria Kuzio, Petro Zhyl’tsov, Serhiy Liulin, Tadevos Manukian, Oleksandr Dubovenko, and Oleksandr Lytvyniuk for “organizing and financing extremist activities.” .
The trial of the Kuzio couple, Serhiy Liulin, Petro Zhyl’tsov, and Tadevos Manukian, began on April 4 in the ‘Yalta Town Court’. They are accused of financing an extremist organization under Article 282.3 of the RF Criminal Code, with the potential maximum punishment of 8-year’s confinement. Moreover, Mr.Manukian will be sentenced in absentia because the investigation has failed to establish his whereabouts, as the Crimean Solidarity informs.
The trial of Oleksandr Dubovenko, and Oleksandr Lytvyniuk started on April 5 in the ‘Armiansk Town Court’. The men are accused under RF CC Article 282.2 (organizing extremist activities). The investigation states that they ‘used a software to hold a Zoom online conference call in order to involve new organization members’.
- To remind: on March 4, 2021, a criminal case was started against Mr. Taras Kuzio, a Yalta resident. He was accused of financing an extremist organization. Mr.Kuzio’s apartment was searched several times.
- On March 12, 2021, V. Krapko, a judge of ‘Kyivsky District Court’ of Simferopol, placed Mr.Kuzio under house arrest, taking into account his two minor children.
- On July 29, 2021, Mr. Petro Zhyl’tsov, aged 33, involved previously as a witness in the case of Taras Kuzio, was detained in Yalta. Mr.Zhyl’tsov was charged under RF CC Article 282.3-1 and Article 282.2-1 (“financing an extremist organization” and “managing an extremist organization activities”). On July 30 Mr.Zhyl’tsov was placed under house arrest as decided by ‘Yalta Town Court’.
- The same day, on July 29, Mr.Novikov, ‘Senior Investigator of Investigation Unit 2, Investigation Division 1, Department of Major Crimes Investigation, Main Investigation Department of RF Investigation Committee for Republic of Crimea’, opened a criminal case under RF CC Article 282.3-1 (“financing extremist activities”) against Mrs. Daria Kuzio, Taras Kuzio’s spouse. She was placed under travel restriction as restraint.
- A few months later, a criminal case was opened against Serhiy Liulin and Tadevos Manukian. Mr.Liulin was detained and placed in the pre-trial detention center, and on March 2, 2022, he was placed under house arrest. In March 2022, the case of believers was submitted to the “Yalta Town Court” to be considered by “judge” Volodymyr Romanenko.
- On August 5, 2021, a series of searches at Jehovah’s Witnesses’ in Armiansk took place, with 8 houses searched. In August 2021, Vitaliy Vlasov, a FSB department investigator, opened a criminal case against Crimeans Oleksandr Lytvyniuk and Oleksandr Dubovenko, accusing them of organizing an extremist organization activities. Several days later their homes were searched. Mr.Lytvyniuk was detained, interrogated and placed under house arrest. Mr.Dubovenko, who was absent on the day of the search, was also later detained and interrogated. His home was re-searched and the believer was placed under house arrest. In March 2022, the case was submitted to the “Armiansk Town Court” to be considered by “judge” Tatiana Fedeneva.
The CHRG considers these trials both as violation of human rights, and violation of international humanitarian law. The persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses is a violation of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion). In addition, the persecution of persons who are not criminals under the Ukrainian law is a violation of ECHR Article 7 (No punishment without law), as under international humanitarian law the Russian Federation has no right to apply its own criminal law in the occupied territories. Violation of the ECHR falls under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. On the other hand, the application of the Russian Criminal Code in Crimea is a violation of Geneva Convention IV that constitutes a war crime under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.