February 10, 1999
On 10 February 1999 the Golovinskiy Court turned into a Biblical analysis, as prosecuting attorney Kondratyeva Tatyana Ivanovna argued the religious literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses inflames religious enmity. Defence counsel Artur Leontyev asked for evidence. The prosecutor replied, ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses teach they have the true religion.’ Leontyev, providing copy of the Bible to the judge and prosecutor, quoted Ephesians chapter 4, verse 5, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” The court asked, ‘how does this incite religious enmity?’ Kondratyeva replied that she was not competent to comment on the Bible and would be calling experts on this issue.
Leontyev continued, referring to further statements in the prosecution’s Complaint. His questions showed other references were based upon Bible quotations and religious doctrine. Soon the judge, the prosecutor and Leontyev, all with Bible in hand, were engaged in active questions and answers about such Bible passages as James 1:27, John 17:18, Revelation 18:1-4. With reference to the latter text, the prosecutor argued that applying this to other religions perverted the Bible. It insulted the feelings of people of other religions. It violated the law.
Attorney Leontyev directed Kondratyeva to publications of the Russian Orthodox Church severely criticizing the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Does this violate the law? ‘I am not competent to comment on clerical arguments,’ she answered. The judge interrupted: ‘You spent three hours yesterday commenting on the literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Please answer.’ Kondratyeva eventually admitted the religious writings of Jehovah’s Witnesses did not incite violence or social discrimination. She remained firm, however, that the dissemination of this religious doctrine incited religious enmity.
Prior to the afternoon break, Galina Krylova began her questions. She asked, ‘Who are the individuals in the Moscow Congregation that are guilty of violating the law?’ The prosecutor could not identify any specific person. She limited her evidence to the dissemination of the religious literature. Krylova asked: “Have you ever attended meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses?” Her answer: “There was no need to attend.”
The afternoon began with the defence asking questions about decisions from the European Court in cases of Kokkinakis, Manoussakis and Tsavachidis. In these cases, the European Court held that Article 9 of the Convention protected the rights of Jehovah’s Witnesses in public preaching and religious meetings. After persistent questionning, the prosecutor eventually agreed that the European Convention and these decisions of the European Court are part of the law of Russia. Defence attorney Leontyev asked, “Are you now willing to withdraw your suit?” She refused to budge. “No,” she answered. She argued that the above decisions of the European Court only apply to individual rights, not to an organization. She maintained that these decisions could not be used to protect Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia.
As the long day wore down to a conclusion, the prosecutor started defending her second ground for banning Jehovah’s Witnesses: the religious teachings cause coercion to destroy the family. What evidence? She argued the literature teaches that only Jehovah’s Witnesses will survive Armageddon. The court asked, ‘What is the connection between Armageddon and coercion to destroy the family?’ The response: ‘It alienates family members from each other when the literature teaches only Jehovah’s Witnesses will be saved.’ The court asked further, ‘What do other religions teach?’ Prosecutor Kondratyeva, paused, referred to the religious doctrines of hell, paradise and concluded she was not competent to comment.
The judge adjourned the hearing until 2:00 p.m. on 11 February 1999. Questions on religious doctrine will continue as the defence has only begun to probe the prosecution on its some 55 references to religious literature and doctrine in its Amended Complaint.