For Immediate Release
February 16, 1999
Orthodox clergy show up in force at Moscow trial;
Defense rebuts false charges
Despite claims that the Russian Orthodox Church has no involvement with the trial to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses in Moscow, some 50 Orthodox supporters filled the courthouse today. They included priests, fatigue-clad members of the Church’s private military force, and a number of followers who read from prayer books, held up icons and made the sign of the cross.
The defense team attacked the prosecutor’s charges, calling them a rehash of Soviet propaganda and shameful to modern Russia. For example, the charge that Jehovah’s Witnesses cause harm to families because they don't celebrate all holidays is the same one that was used against Jehovah’s Witnesses by the Nazis in 1933 and the Soviets in 1951, said Russian human rights attorney Galina Krylova. Krylova chided the prosecution for its lack of originality.
“Did you copy your charges from the Soviet documents?” Krylova asked the prosecution. “I am ashamed as a Russian citizen to hear what is going on in a courtroom in 1999.”
While the prosecution’s case was built around out-of-context excerpts from the religious publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the defense cited scholarly works, scientific studies, international and Russian law, and the Holy Bible. For example, a study prepared by the Institute of Religion and Law for the Duma Committee on Religious Associations showed that the faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses encourages strong family ties.
Showing that, contrary to the prosecution charge, Jehovah’s Witnesses seek appropriate medical care, Russian defense attorney Artur Leontyev entered as evidence the analysis of several top Russian physicians. Citing the problems with Russia’s blood supply, these doctors encouraged the avoidance of blood transfusions. Leontyev asked how Jehovah’s Witnesses could be considered unreasonable for refusing blood transfusions in favor of nonblood medicine when Russian doctors are encouraging it.
Rebutting the charge that Jehovah’s Witnesses promote religious intolerance, Leontyev cited a psychological study performed by Victor Kagan, a doctor and director of Academic Programs under the Russian Academy of Education. The study showed that among those surveyed, there was a greater level of tolerance for others of differing beliefs after a person became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Detailed information on the Moscow trial can be found at www.jw-media.org. For more information on Jehovah’s Witnesses, visit www.watchtower.org.
Contact: J.R. Brown (718) 560-5600