COURT ACQUITS SERGIEV POSAD ELDERS, REJECTING UNFOUNDED CLAIMS OF PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE
Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 4 July 2017
Despite the persistent attempts of the prosecutor's office to find two peaceful believers to be "extremists," the court again issued a verdict of acquittal with the right of rehabilitation.
On 21 June 2017 the Sergiev-Posad city court published the verdict that acquitted Viacheslav Stepanov and Andrei Sivaka, Jehovah's Witnesses from Sergiev Posad (Moscow province), who over the course of four years have been subjected to unfair criminal prosecution. Earlier, on 4 March 2016, the court found these believers innocent, but on the basis of the demand of the prosecutor's office the criminal case was considered a second time by a different judge. Wishing to justify the years-long illegal prosecution of the believers, the prosecutor's office again appealed the second verdict of acquittal.
Jehovah's Witnesses are far from any manifestation of extremism and they consider prosecution of believers on fictitious charges to be repression. (tr. by PDS, posted 4 July 2017)
IN SERGIEV POSAD, ELDERS OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES CONGREGATION AGAIN ACQUITTED
SOVA Center for New and Analysis, 4 July 2017
The second consideration of the case of Viacheslav Stepanov and Andrei Sivak ended with their acquittal.
On 21 June 2017 the Sergiev-Posad city court of Moscow province ended the second consideration of the case of elders of the Jehovah's Witnesses congregation Viacheslav Stepanov and Andrei Sivak, who were charged with inciting religious hatred committed by an organized group (point "v" of part 2 of article 282 of the Criminal Code). The defendants were acquitted.
The criminal case based on article 282 of the Criminal Code against Stepanov and Sivak was initiated in April 2013. The believers were accused that in the course of meetings they made statements that incited religious hatred; in particular, they quoted forbidden brochures of the Jehovah's Witnesses "What does the Bible really teach?" and "Draw nigh to Jehovah," which contain negative characterizations of other religions, including "traditional" Christianity and Christian clergymen and which urged joining the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Back in March 2016, the Sergiev-Posad city court came to the conclusion about the innocence of Stepanov and Sivak, not finding in their statements indicators of inciting hatred and noting substantive violations in the conduct of expert analysis at the stage of preliminary investigation. However in May 2016 the Moscow provincial court issued an appellate ruling by which it reversed the verdict and remanded the case for a new review.
We consider prosecution of Jehovah's Witnesses for extremism to be religious discrimination. (tr. by PDS, posted 4 July 2017)
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