March 19, 2002
The hearings for the application of the prosecutor to liquidate the Moscow community of Jehovah’s Witnesses continue. The hearing began today at 12 p.m. with a showing of video material portraying several weddings of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Afterward, the court heard the testimony of a witness for the defense, Yelena Slobondenyuk. Both the witness Yelena Slobondenyuk and her husband, Yuriy, had already testified for this case at an earlier date. They were divorced at the time and testified against each other in court. But now their situation has changed for the better. After three years of separation, they have resolved their differences and now live together as a family while raising their four children.
In answer to Attorney Leontyev’s question as to why their marriage broke up, Yelena explained to the court that several factors were involved. According to her words, at the time of their marriage break-up, her husband was actively working along with the Committee for Saving the Youth from Totalitarian Sects, which greatly contributed to their marriage falling apart. Only after her husband broke away from the Committee, did he become less aggressive and begin to respect Yelena’s religious views, which made the saving of their marriage possible.
The next witness for the defense was Dmitriy Burenkov. He related his four-year experience of serving as a volunteer at Bethel (the religious center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia). Dmitriy explained to the court that while working initially on the construction site at Bethel, he learned several new trades in European-standard interior design. Once the construction ended, he was able to work at his profession. He also learned how to operate a computer and to speak English fluently. Being a freight and transportation engineer by profession, Dmitriy was offered to work as the overseer of the transportation department.
He married in March 1998, and their son was born two years later. Dmitriy and his wife are presently living with his parents in Moscow and raising their son. He considers the time that he spent in Bethel to be the very best time of his life.
In Dmitriy’s opinion, the prosecutor’s claim that a workday at Bethel demands many hours of hard labor, is in total conflict with the truth. Moreover, he says that he has never seen a place with better working and living conditions than Bethel.
At 9:30 a.m. on March 20, the court will move on to the testimonies of the specialists.