March 11, 1999
Judge turns down expert study done for federal Ministry of Justice
Today Judge Yelena Prokhorycheva turned down the expert committee decision prepared for the federal Ministry of Justice, in lieu of a new study to be performed specifically for the Moscow trial. The defence objected to the new study, describing the procedure as discriminatory.
Discussion of the proposed study continued today in the Moscow trial of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The prosecutor requested that only excerpts from the literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses be allowed as a basis for the study, not the full text. In the past, the prosecutor has taken such excerpts out of context. The makeup of the panel was discussed, as were the questions to be researched.
The judge also indicated that the study would look only at Jehovah’s Witnesses, with no comparison to other religions, a contradiction of her previous statements. The judge again asked the prosecution to pay the entire cost of the study.
John Burns, attorney for the defence, again objected to the creation of an expert panel. He based his objection on Article 14 of the European Convention, which prohibits discrimination based on religion. Looking at the literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses without considering religious literature of other faiths is discriminatory, he said. He also objected strongly to the leading and pejorative questions proposed by the prosecutor. He urged the court to save time and frustration by ending the trial.
Galina Krylova, attorney for the defence, reminded the judge that the previous postponements were caused by lack of evidence and lack of preparation on the part of the prosecutor. The new panel will delay the outcome further, creating a hardship for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Moscow and throughout Russia. “This is all a waste of time for everyone involved,” Krylova said.
The trial resumes tomorrow at 10:00 a.m.