For Immediate Release
February 22, 2001
Moscow trial—decision expected Friday
MOSCOW, RUSSIA—A decision in the trial aimed at banning Jehovah’s Witnesses in Moscow is expected Friday in the Golovinsky Intermunicipal District Court. The prosecutor seeks to deny the registered religious organization all rights set out in the 1997 law on freedom of conscience and religion. It would prohibit religious services, which contain Bible education, prayer, and songs; it would make the distribution and use of religious literature illegal; and it would ban the public expression and teaching of religious beliefs.
Testimony from several witnesses and lengthy legal procedures occupied the court’s time during the past few days. Today, Thursday, the court is in recess because the lawyer for the prosecution, Tatyana Kondratyeva, requested time to prepare her final submission in view of the “complex issues” involved with this case.
In a dramatic move this morning, Kondratyeva asked that Judge Yelena Prokhorycheva be removed from the case, claiming that the judge had displayed a ‘hysterical’ attitude toward her. A defense lawyer, Galina Krylova, declared: “There is no legal basis for this inappropriate request, which shows disrespect for the court.” Artur Leontyev, also for the defense, accused the prosecutor of a cynical attempt to halt proceedings at this late stage, “because of an absence of evidence.” The motion was rejected. In their final submission, lawyers for the defense will argue that the prosecutor has not presented any evidence of specific acts by any member of the community to support the allegations. Instead, the prosecution’s case relies on the personal interpretation of religious doctrine and literature, either by an individual or by a panel of experts. In short, the prosecution’s case is based on disagreement with the religious beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Banning and thereby liquidating an entire religious community is contrary to the Russian Constitution and the European Convention. Lawyers for Jehovah’s Witnesses will therefore call for the prosecutor’s application to be rejected and vigorously condemned.
Contact: J. R. Brown (718) 560-5600