ARZAMAS PROSECUTOR CANCELS PLANS TO BAN UNREGISTERED GROUP OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES
Portal-Credo.Ru, 5 May 2017
A lawsuit for banning an unregistered religious group of Jehovah's Witnesses in Arzamas (Nizhny Novgorod province) was withdrawn from the court on 4 May by the city prosecutor's office. Earlier, on 10 March, the prosecutor's office filed in Arzamas district court a plaintiff's declaration for banning the activity of a group of believers that was functioning without registration, a Portal-Credo.Ru correspondent reports.
Attorney Arli Chimirov, who is representing the interests of the believers, said "citizens have the right to exercise their rights to joint confession of religion and without creating a religious group, according to the procedure of article 7 of the federal law "On freedom of conscience and religious associations." In the attorney's opinion, this lawsuit should not be considered in court at all.
Hearings in the Arzamas city court began in late March and a subsequent session was held on 3 May. Assistant prosecutor Yulia Plakunova maintained that residents of Arxamas who profess the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses believe "in life after death and healing without medicines." This statement evoked puzzlement in the judge, who asked to clarify just who it is of the Witnesses who maintained such a thing. Mrs. Plakunova referred to the witness Meshko. The judge began reading the testimony of the witness, according to which everything was the other way around. Nevertheless, the assistant prosecutor continued to insist on her point and several other points of the indictment, which also suffered from lack of evidence. At a result, the judge suggested to present the missing evidence by 4 May.
However on 4 May Yulia Plakunova did not appear at the court session. Instead a statement arrived from the Arzamas prosecutor withdrawing the lawsuit. The court accepted the withdrawal and closed proceedings on the case.
"The prosecutor's office did not have a choice and the reasons why the plaintiff withdrew the claim were most likely dictated by a desire to save face," the attorney for the defense, Arli Chimirov, said.
The story of the prosecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Arzamas received surprisingly blatant publicity in the press. It was reported, for example, that the prosecutor's office accused the citizens of the exclusivity of their religious convictions, which were incorrectly interpreted. Besides the aforementioned belief in "life after death," the plaintiff's declaration contained this accusation: "They manipulate the consciousness of people to refuse worldly values, teaching the existence of purity and light beyond the grave, without the problems and obligations of life." (tr. by PDS, posted 5 May 2017)
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