February 26, 1999
The defense led the first witness on Friday morning, Dr. Victor Kalnberzs. He is a surgeon with more than 50 years of experience. He was born in Moscow and now lives in Riga, Latvia. He remains an active member of the Russia Academy of Medical Sciences. He served in the Afghanistan war, receiving a prestigious medal from Gromyko for his medical services. His experience includes trauma medicine.
He explained that the doctor who first performed blood transfusions in Russia proved this treatment was dangerous. This doctor died from a blood transfusion. Dr. Kalnberzs stated that in his experience he had seen more persons die from blood transfusions than from refusal of blood transfusions. He described the complications included heptatitis, AIDS and new viruses that continue to appear. He encouraged use of alternatives to avoid reliance on blood therapy. He referred to the cell-saver, quick action to stop the bleeding and blood substitutes. These were all available in Moscow. When asked whether blood substitutes are expensive luxuries unavailable in Russia, he highlighted the Russian blood substitute, Perftoran. He stated that this was a blood alternative that Russia could be proud of and should be a profitable export to the West.
The judge asked about the position of Jehovah’s Witnesses in relation to the prosecutor’s claim that they encouraged suicide or refusal of medical assistance. He disagreed with the prosecutor. He had many patients that were Jehovah’s Witnesses. He explained that they do not refuse medical treatment, but choose treatment by way of alternatives. He added that the patient has the right to decide, not the doctor. This was a sacred right, based on medical ethics, human rights, and the law. He showed Jehovah’s Witnesses were not unique. He cited examples such as patients who may refuse an organ transplant.
Dr. Kalnberzs then quoted a statement from one of Russia’s leading hematologists, Dr. Vorobyov:
“. . . the position of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who agree to any medical intervention. . . in place of donor blood and its primary components. . . cannot be interpreted as refusal of medical assistance as a whole, much less suicide, and this position in general is not in conflict with modern scientific achievement.”
The prosecution called its next witness, S.A. Ivanova. She began by telling the story of her son, now 28 years of age. She claimed that he had a normal upbringing until he began associating with Jehovah’s Witnesses. She alleged that excessive preaching, meetings and Bible study led to mental problems. Eventually, it became so serious he was confined to a hospital. After treatment, he left and she arranged for his baptism in the Russian Orthodox Church. As she talked, the judge asked her secretary to bring out a file. It contained documents from the hospital where her son had been treated. The judge stopped the witness and read from the medical file. It told an entirely different story. It showed that her son had severe mental problems from childhood. The treating doctors concluded that there was no direct relationship between the mental illness and her son’s association with Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Ivanova also participated in the Committee for Rescuing Youth From Totalitarian Sects. ‘What does this Committee do?’ asked the judge. Ivanova responded, ‘I don’t know.’
Friday’s final witness was Y.G. Bakayev. The prosecutor in his complaint claimed that Jehovah’s Witnesses had caused his divorce. However, during Bakayev’s testimony, it was revealed that he and his wife are still married to this day. They had lived together for 12 years. She was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They had one son. His complaints were similar to previous prosecution witnesses. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate traditional holidays, birthdays, and engage in preaching. He claimed that his wife’s religion is “a waste of time”, and therefore is bad for his son. When confronted with a signed statement from his son stating life with father “is impossible”, Bakayev stated “I have a right to punish my son”. He admitted that his wife had called the police to their home several times complaining that he beat her. He explained, “It’s never been proven in court.” He also admitted that he only paid support to his wife after being forced by court order. They were now living in the same apartment because she did not want to risk losing custody by way of divorce proceedings. Like all other family witnesses for the prosecution, he too participated in the anti-cult Committee.
The day ended with the judge telling the lawyer for Moscow City Department of Justice to be prepared to explain her position on Monday, March 1, 1999. Perhaps on Monday, observers will learn if Moscow wants to ban the religious activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses.