MOSCOW PROVINCIAL COURT CONFIRMS ACQUITTAL VERDICT IN CASE OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES ELDERS
SOVA Center for News and Analysis, 24 August 2017
On 24 August 2017, the Moscow provincial court left in force the verdict of acquittal in the case of two elders of the congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses in Sergiev Posad.
Viacheslav Stepanov and Andrei Sivak were accused of inciting religious hatred committed by an organized group (point "v" of part 2 of article 282 of the Criminal Code). The criminal case was opened in April 2013. The believers were accused of making statements during meetings that incited religious hatred, specifically, they quoted forbidden brochures of the Jehovah's Witnesses "What does the Bible really teach?" and "Draw neigh to Jehovah," which contain negative characterizations of other religions, including "traditional" Christianity and Christian clergy and which call for joining the Jehovah's Witnesses.
A Sergiev Posad city court back in March 2016 came to the conclusion the Stepanov and Sivak were innocent, not finding in their statements indicators of inciting hatred and taking note of substantive violations in the expert analysis that was conducted at the stage of preliminary investigation. However, in May 2016, the Moscow provincial court issued an appellate order that annulled the verdict and remanded the case for a new review. In June 2017, the Sergiev Posad court again acquitted Stepanov and Sivak, but the prosecutor's office again appealed the verdict.
We regard the prosecution of Jehovah's Witnesses for extremism to be religious discrimination. (tr. by PDS, posted 24 August 2017)
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