March 2, 1999
Defense witnesses testify that their religion encourages strong family ties
Six witnesses gave evidence today-two for the prosecution and four for the defense. The day closed with the judge stating that she feels another expert study will be needed to analyze the literature, language, and psychology of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The first witness today was a rebuttal witness for the defense. D. Burenkov is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and he countered the accusations earlier made to the court by his mother. Burenkov used photographs to show the court that, rather than being exploited by his work at the administrative center in Solnechnoye, he was well cared for. In response, the prosecutor asked “Don’t you feel guilty robbing the children that donate their money so that you can enjoy all these earthly pleasures?” Burenkov also testified that he maintains contact with his parents, visiting them three or four times a year and helping them at their Dacha.
N. Zhuravlyova next offered her rebuttal of her father’s testimony to the court. Her parents were divorced before her mother became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Zhuravlyova is studying to be a teacher, and her mother is a manager of a company in Moscow. Zhuravlyova told the court she does not visit her father because he will not allow it. “I have not even seen his apartment. When I go there to visit him, he will not allow me to come into his apartment.” When the prosecutor asked Zhuravlyova how she could teach children if she does not celebrate the holidays, she responded by stating that she is already teaching and that it has not caused a problem. She tells her students that she loves them, and she helps them to enjoy their schooling.
R. A. Zemlyanskaya, a prosecution witness, next came to the stand. Her husband is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and she first contacted The Committee to Rescue Youth in 1994. She had taken literature, forms, and records from a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses and had turned them over to the Committee. She stated that she did not consider taking the records without permission as stealing.
Prosecution witness A. Zhavoronkova testified that she sought the Committee’s help when her son became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. According to Zhavoronkova, members of the Committee comforted her and instructed her on how to talk to her son. She complained to the court that her son is “zombified.” Zhavoronkova’s son is a fifth-level student at the conservatory of music, and he plays in the Moscow orchestra.
N. V. Nikishina testified for the defense. Another court had denied Nikishina custody of her son because she is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Her case is being appealed to the European Court of Human Rights. Nikishina Application to the ECHR.
Y. L. Slobodyenyuk took the stand to rebut her husband’s testimony for the prosecution. On the stand, he had testified that the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses was the reason they divorced. Mrs. Slobodyenyuk testified, however, that she divorced her husband because of his ongoing affair with another woman.
The judge closed the day by saying that she wanted to settle a couple of questions. She had received two expert studies, one from F. G. Ovsiyenko and one from N. S. Gordiyenko, but that these were prepared in the framework of a criminal case and are therefore not applicable in the civil trial. Another expert study will have to be done.