February 26, 2002
Attorney Artur Leontyev presented the defense arguments to the court. In his opinion, the prosecutor’s application is not of a legal nature, but rather an ideological one. He referred to the words of the judge representing Russia at the European Court of Human Rights, Anatoliy Kovler, who said that Article 14 of the law “On Freedom of Conscience” “is unprecedented due to the list of reasons for which a religious organization may be liquidated,” and that its “wording is more fitting for the Criminal Code.”
Further, Attorney Leontyev explained to the court that because the prosecutor has refused to present the court with any facts of illegal activity on the part of the Moscow Jehovah’s Witnesses, and bases her charges exclusively on their religious literature, he is compelled to use the Bible and the publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses in his explanations. Afterward, the attorney used examples to show how the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses are based implicitly on God’s Word, the Bible. He also noted the positive influence that a careful study of the Bible has on it’s believers. To illustrate, he used several quotes from independent observers. The following are some of the quotes:
“The Witnesses teach people to pay their taxes honestly, not to participate in wars or preparations for war, not to steal and, in general, to follow a life-style that if it were adopted by others would lead to an improvement in the standards of civil cohabitation.”—Sergio Albesano, Talento, November-December 1996.
“Contrary to the insinuations circulated on certain occasions, [Jehovah’s Witnesses] do not appear to me to represent the slightest danger to the State’s institutions. They are citizens who are peace-loving, conscientious, and respectful toward the authorities.”—A Belgian parliamentary deputy.
“The Jehovah’s Witnesses are recognizably the most honest people in the Federal Republic.”—German newspaper Sindelfinger Zeitung.
“Jehovah’s Witnesses experience greater success than members of other denominations in maintaining stable marital unions.”—American Ethnologist.
“Jehovah’s Witnesses are among the most upright and diligent of the citizenry of African countries.”—Dr. Bryan Wilson, Oxford University.
“They have . . . made a definite contribution to the preservation of some of the most precious things in our democracy.”—Professor C. S. Braden, These Also Believe.
By reading the entire context and not just a few sentences taken out of context, Attorney Leontyev proceeded to consecutively refute all the prosecutor’s arguments supposedly based on the publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Speaking about Jehovah’s Witnesses' attitude toward other people, the attorney quoted the December 1, 1998 issue of The Watchtower magazine: “We do not take . . . a narrow view, treating non-Witnesses with disdain. Like the apostle Paul, our wish is that all who hear the Bible’s message of truth gain God’s favor . . . So it would be unscriptural for us to use disparaging terms when referring to ones who do not share our beliefs.”
In discussing the prosecutor’s charge in her application regarding donated blood, Attorney Leontyev referred to the words of Professor Zil'ber: “Jehovah’s Witnesses are certainly not suicidal or psychopaths. For their treatment and especially for the saving of their lives, they ask that all methods of medicine be used-including, anesthesia, intensive-care therapy, resuscitation, transfusions of various solutions-except for blood and its components . . . It is simply that they are more versed than other patients are in not only the problems of transfusions, but also in the patient’s rights.”
The court will resume again on Wednesday, February 27, 2002, at 10 a.m.