February 23, 1999
The morning began with a fresh development. The prosecutor brought a motion to introduce another lawyer, Sergiyenko to participate. She had previously represented the Committee for Rescuing Youth From Totalitarian Cults in this case. The Court earlier removed this Committee from participating in this case due to its lacking impartiality. Sergiyenko was now seeking to participate as representative of the Moscow City Department of Justice. The Court indicated it would consider this issue tomorrow when an official from the City of Moscow would be present.
To date the Department of Justice has taken no position as to whether it supports the application for a ban or not. At the earlier proceedings on 29 September 1998, the court ordered that it be added as a party since it would be responsible for executing the order to ban the religious activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Many are waiting to see what position the Department of Justice will now take, particularly since it appears to be retaining Sergiyenko, the lawyer representing the anti-cult committee in this case.
Evidence continued with Kalin finishing his testimony. The prosecution then called its first witness, Dr. V.F. Kondratyev, professor at the V.P. Serbskiy State Scientific Center of Social and Forensic Psychiatry. He stated that he had researched the religious literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses and disagreed with their theology. He alleged the religious teachings added to members’ stress, creating mental problems. Much of his evidence before cross-examination was similar to that found in his written opinion filed with the court.
Defense counsel Galina Krylova began the cross-examination. She meticulously took his written opinion and compared it to a document prepared by the Moscow Patriarchate. He admitted that several paragraphs of his opinion were identical, word for word, to that appearing in the Patriarchate’s document. ‘We work from one diskette’, he explained. As the questioning continued, he admitted he had no scientific evidence or specific facts to support his theory of ‘sectomania.’ It is his view that many Russians are suffering mentally because they are becoming members of sects like Jehovah’s Witnesses. He acknowledged there is no general support in his profession for his theory. Further questions revealed significant ignorance about Jehovah’s Witnesses. He did not know that they were not a new religion in Russia. He had never attended any of their religious meetings. He had never treated or examined any patients of this religion. He based his view primarily on reading the literature and on informal discussions with 10 to 15 Jehovah’s Witnesses outside of the courtroom. He also talked to one nurse at his hospital who is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Toward the end of his testimony, he became more emotional. He referred to some in the audience as his ‘brothers in Christ.’ When confronted with a contrary consensus opinion of his peers, he suggested they were ‘bought off.’ The so-called expert medical opinion was a mix of professional jargon, personal hypotheses and unsubstantiated allegations.
The prosecutor continues tomorrow with an expert in religious studies.