March 10, 1999
Discussions on proposed expert panel continue
Judge Yelena Prokhorycheva accepted copies of several European Court decisions into the court records today. She also decided to consider accepting the expert committee report prepared for the Ministry of Justice.
The judge allowed three decisions from the European Court of Human Rights to be included in the court record: Kokkinakis v. Greece, Manoussakis v. Greece, and Tsavachidis v. Greece. In each of these cases, the European Court determined that Jehovah’s Witnesses were a religion deserving of protection under the European Convention.
Judge Prokhorycheva has called for the creation of an expert committee to evaluate the literature and theology of Jehovah’s Witnesses. On Monday, the judge denied the defence objection that such a committee will be studying issues irrelevant to the facts of the case and that the time needed to prepare the evaluation will create an unnecessary delay of justice. Today, the defence informed the court that an expert opinion of Jehovah’s Witnesses had been prepared recently, and the judge was encouraged to use this expert evaluation rather than creating a new one. An expert committee was appointed by the federal Ministry of Justice to evaluate the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses for their application for re-registration as a religious association. Such re-registration is required at the national level under the 1997 religion law. The judge requested a representative of the Ministry of Justice to appear in court on Thursday to discuss its evaluation.
The prosecutor submitted the seven questions they had prepared to be considered by the proposed expert panel. Four of the questions relate to religious terminology used in the literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Two relate to the religious doctrine of Jehovah’s Witnesses. One relates to the testimony of witnesses during the civil trial.
The trial will resume tomorrow at 2:00 p.m.