March 4, 1999
Human rights advocate presents to court
Two witnesses testified in court today. One represented the anti-cult group whose complaint triggered the trial. The other is an internationally known human rights advocate.
Although not originally scheduled to testify, the judge allowed M. V. Gerasimov to appear as a representative of the Committee for the Rescue of Youth from Totalitarian Sects. Gerasimov, a Scientology specialist, acknowledged that he had never performed studies on Jehovah’s Witnesses. He responded that there was no need to; if one person complained, that was proof enough that they were a totalitarian sect.
Lyudmila Alekseyeva, president of the International Helsinki Federation and chairperson of the Moscow Helsinki Group, expressed what she feels is the reason for the trial. “For many years, this society allowed only one way of thinking. Now some cannot tolerate it when others think differently.” She said that she feels strongly about this case because it is a violation of human rights. It is her opinion that if Jehovah’s Witnesses are successfully banned, they will continue with other religions, then possibly move on to trade unions, human rights organizations, other public groups and the media. She also explained why she felt that there was no need for a law on religion; if someone commits a crime, then there are criminal laws to cover this. Therefore, there is no need to try to control religions with a separate law.
Another hour was spent at the end of the day to determine which documents will be allowed into the court record. The trial resumes tomorrow at 10:00 a.m.