February 9, 1999
Moscow prosecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses resumed on 9 February 1999 with several motions by defence.
The judge accepted the defence motion dismissing as a representative of the public the anti-cult group called the Committee for Rescuing Youth from Totalitarian Sects. The court found it had no right to represent the interests of other parties in court. The court also agreed to review archival documents submitted by defence showing persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Nazi Germany and Soviet Union. The defence argued these were relevant as they revealed totalitarian States had used the same accusations now made by the prosecution in its effort to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The judge rejected the following defence motions:
1. Request for larger court room as the room selected was extremely cramped, ruling out public seating except for only 12 persons and resulting in majority of press, Russian public, international human-rights organizations and embassy observers being excluded;
2. Dismissal of the prosecution’s case as it was primarily based on interpretations of religious literature and the Bible;
3. Dismissal of prosecution’s reliance on religious literature and all activities prior to October 1, 1997; this would require retroactive application of the law On The Freedom Of Conscience and on Religious Associations;
4. Request for countersuit against prosecutor; defence argued prosecution’s case was an abuse of process as European Court had repeatedly protected the rights of Jehovah’s Witnesses under Article 9 of the European Convention;
5. Adding four individuals of Moscow Congregation as co-defendants;
The defence also requested the judge to include in the record the European Court of Human Rights decisions in the cases of Kokkinakis v. Greece (1993), Manoussakis et al v. Greece (1996), and most recently Case of Tsavachidis v. Greece (21 January 1999). In these cases from Greece, the European Court stated that Jehovah’s Witnesses were a known religion, entitled to the protection of religious freedom as guaranteed under Article 9 of the Convention. The judge asked the prosecution to review these cases, holding the defence motion on reserve.
During the afternoon, the prosecution began to read its Supplemental Complaint, dated 15 January 1999. This included reading numerous references from the religious literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses, such as The Watchtower, Awake!, The Secret of Family Happiness, You Can Live Forever In Paradise On Earth, and Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life.
Toward the end of the afternoon, the judge pressed the prosecution with questions. The judge wanted to know what law had been violated and what was the prosecution’s evidence supporting the alleged violation. The judge asked, “What is the proof this literature causes religious discord?” The prosecutor responded that the minds of Russian citizens are not prepared for this information. Prosecutor relies on the 1997 law On Freedom of Conscience and on Religious Associations, Articles 1, 2, 3, and 14.2.
On February 10, 1999, the defence will be given opportunity to ask its questions of the prosecutor.