COURT ORDERS EXPERT ANALYSIS OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES' BROCHURES SEIZED AT CUSTOMS
Religiia i pravo, 28 April 2016
On 26 April, a hearing in the case of the Leningrad-Finland Transport Prosecutor against Jehovah's Witnesses was held. The prosecutor is asking that religious brochures that were sent to the address of the St. Petersburg organization and were seized at customs in the summer of 2015 be found to be extremist.
About a hundred persons came for the session; many were at the courthouse already early in the morning.
"I have been here since 10 in the morning. To my great amazement, despite the fact that we wrote a statement and wanted a large room to be provided for us, we were forced to mill around in such cramped quarters and to disrupt the work of the court. This is all puzzling," the Witness said.
The court session lasted about seven hours. It originally proceeded in a small room, where the lawyers were barely accommodated. Then the decision was made to transfer the judicial session to a bit larger room. Besides three prosecutors and representatives of the parties involved, about 50 persons were accommodated in it. The rest continued to mill about in the corridor.
When the literature which figures in this criminal case was brought from storage into the courtroom—three sealed envelopes—the defendant doubted that it was these copies that were indicated in the original lawsuit.
At the hearing, the court granted the prosecutor's petition for ordering an expert analysis of the confiscated literature. At the same time, the attorney for the defendant considered the questions that the state prosecutor composed for the experts to be incorrect and he asked the court to interrogate a specialist in religious studies who would be able to compose these questions more concretely and correctly.
In addition, the defendant declared that he does not trust the court and he requested the dismissal of the judge and one of the state prosecutors.
According to the court's decision today, the proceedings in the case are suspended until the announcement of the results of the expert analysis. (tr. by PDS, posted 28 April 2016)
COURT SENDS THE BIBLE TO EXPERTS TO FIND EXTREMISM IN IT
Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 28 April 2016
On Tuesday, 26 April 2016, the Vyborg city court sent the Bible to experts in order to find extremism in it. Grossly violating a number of provisions of the legislation of the RF, the court made haste to grant the petition of the prosecutor's office. The hearing has been suspended until the results of the expert analysis. Lawyers declared a challenge to the judge, Roman Petrov, three times.
At the request of the prosecutor's office, the court ordered an expert analysis in the very same institution (Center of Socio-Cultural Expert Analysis) whose director (a mathematics teacher and former assistant manager of the Institute of Culturology, Natalia Kriukova) has already submitted a conclusion about the presence of signs of extremism in the Bible seized from the Jehovah's Witnesses. It is this study that lay at the foundation of the present prosecutorial suit. In her examination, Kriukova maintained that the Bible, "taken as a book, ceases to be the Bible, which it becomes only in a church." The Bible seized from the Jehovah's Witnesses, Kriukova suggests, should be considered extremist material merely because it contains a reference to a book that is included in the list of extremist materials.
The court denied the lawyers of the interested parties the possibility of stating an objection to the prosecutor's petition about ordering the expert analysis. However, in the first place, existing legislation forbids ordering an expert analysis in an institution whose director has already conducted an examination of the given subject. Second, the Bible simply cannot be subjected to expert analysis on the subject of extremism, inasmuch as a special amendment, protecting sacred texts, including the Bible, from the purview of antiextremist legislation, was recently introduced by the president of the Russian federation into the law about extremism.
Unfortunately, Judge Roman Yurievich Petrov from the very beginning arranged the course of the hearing such that interested parties (several religious organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses) were denied any possibility to submit any petitions whatever, to add evidence to the case, or to present reasoned objections. For example, the court did not allow adding to the case evidence of the fact that the book that is the subject of the lawsuit really is a Bible. The lawyers were denied the possibility of questioning a specialist in religious studies and witnesses in the case who were in the judicial session.
As a result, the lawyers issued three times a challenge to the judge, one of which he denied and the two others he simply ignored. (tr. by PDS, posted 29 April 2016)
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