28-30 MAY 2018. OVERVIEW OF HEARING IN CASE OF DANISH BELIEVER IN OREL
Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 5 June 2018
In these three days, the court examined several materials of the case, refused to limit news media in coverage of the trial as was requested by the prosecutor's office, and began questioning a secret witness, who, as lawyers declared, was not really secret. Since the preceding judicial session, the judge was in a conference room, deciding whether to disclose the "secret witness," Oleg Kurdiumov, who on 10 November 2017 was already questioned in this case under his real name, that is, there can be no grounds for secrecy. Without refuting the identity of the witness, the judge nevertheless made a decision about his questioning by means of special equipment making him unidentifiable.
On 28 May 2018, the appearance of the "secret witness" was not assured and therefore in the court written documents from the first volume were disclosed. During this, whatever evidence the state prosecutor announced, lawyers pointed to the unsoundness of the evidence in this case. Thus, the prosecutor cited the order of the Zheleznodorozhny district court of 3 March 2016 regarding holding the local religious organization administratively responsible, but the lawyers called the court's attention to the fact that this order was rescinded on appeal and does not have legal force. Then the prosecutor cited the decision regarding the liquidation of the local religious organization in Orel, and also the appellate decision of the Russian Supreme Court in this case. But the lawyers read the literal quotation from this decision of the Supreme Court, indicating that even former members of the local religious organization of Orel have the right, after the liquidation of the local religious organization, to conduct religious rituals, and their right to the confession of faith of the Jehovah's Witnesses was not abrogated. After this the prosecutor cited extracts from Sberbank [savings bank] and commented that the local religious organization in Orel allegedly conducted financial transactions after the decision regarding its liquidation. But the lawyers requested that these excerpts be viewed carefully: from them it follows that Sberbank itself conducted the operations and transferred the remainder of the money of the local religious organization to its own account because of the liquidation of the local religious organization.
On 29 May 2018, it was decided to view a secret video recording of a worship service. The court decided to view the video in a closed session (the citizens on the video had not given their consent to disclosure of identities), and therefore asked all of the audience to leave the courtroom.
On 30 May 2018, the session began with a petition by the prosecutor's office to restrict the news media in coverage of this trial. Defendant Dennis Christensen, who does not see his guilt before people and God, to the contrary declared that secrecy limits his right to his own defense. The judge issued a determination to deny the petition of the prosecutor's office. Before the court moved to the questioning of the "secret witness," lawyers asked him to determine personally that nobody was sitting alongside the witness who could tell him the answers, and also that he did not have notes that he could peek at. Judge Rudnev left and upon his return he confirmed that the witness was sitting alone in the room and outsiders did not have access to him. But as soon as his questioning began it became clear that the equipment distorted the voice of the "secret witness" so much that it was impossible to understand for certain what he was saying. Because of this the judge postponed the questioning until 3 [sic] June 2018, promising to find equipment of better quality. (tr. by PDS, posted 5 June 2018)
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