February 17-18, 1999
Prosecution resumed on 17 February, firing questions at defence counsel. Questions covered issues from the canonical structure of the Moscow Congregation to procedure for appointing auxiliary pioneers, regular pioneers and special pioneers. The prosecutor also wanted details about the Congregation’s internal disciplinary process and disfellowshipping. (Most of these questions had already been answered during the four previous criminal investigations which found no evidence of unlawful activity.) As the prosecutor strayed into issues of religious doctrine or matters irrelevant to the Amended Complaint, the judge dismissed these questions. Often the judge reminded the prosecutor to stick to basic rules of procedure. The tension became obvious as the judge demonstrated she was not under the control of the prosecution. The prosecutor’s irritations finally erupted into an emotive request that the judge remove herself from the case.
As required by procedure, the judge heard argument from both sides. She retired, and the two People’s Representatives returned. These two ladies, senior citizens, sit on each side of the judge during the hearing. They formally make the decision as to whether the judge has demonstrated any partiality or bias. They disagreed. The request was denied.
In the afternoon, questions continued. The prosecutor probed the operation of Hospital Liaison Committees of Jehovah’s Witnesses. She searched for any answers to support her theory that Jehovah’s Witnesses were coerced to refuse blood. At about 15:30, her questions ended abruptly with a request for a break until 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, 18 February. The judge agreed but asked that she return with witnesses.
At 10:00 a.m. on 18 February, defence counsel arrived. Already there were a number of priests and members of the local Moscow Congregation present. Some of the prosecution’s witnesses were also present. All patiently waited for the prosecutor. The judge waited for 50 minutes. No prosecutor. At 10:50 a.m., the judge convened court, announcing she had received from the prosecutor, only 3 minutes previously, a letter by fax. It stated the prosecutor would not attend due to urgent professional activities. She could be present, however, on Monday, 22 February 1999. The judge, not impressed, requested comments from defence. Leontyev stated he was prepared and suggested court resume the next day. Burns deferred to the court, respectfully reminding the judge that the defence was present and ready to proceed immediately.
The hearing was postponed until Monday, 22 February 1999.