PROSECUTOR IN PROKHLADNY DEMANDS 3 YEARS SUSPENDED SENTENCE FOR BELIEVER
Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 21 December 2018
On 21 December 2018, in the Prokhladny district court of Kabardino-Balkaria, the debates of the parties in the case of 70-year-old Arkady Akopian began. He is charged under part 1 of article 282 of the CC of the RF. The prosecutor asked for three years incarceration suspended and a probationary term of two years for him.
Arkady Akopian, a native of a small Armenian village in Azerbaijan, arrived in Kabardino-Balkaria with his wife and three children in 1988, fleeing from ethnic violence provoked by the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. He became acquainted with Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia in the early 1990s, marveling at the fact that for this religious group ideas of inter-ethnic hatred and violence are alien.
Law enforcement agencies had no charges against Akopian until siloviki [security forces] launched in Russia a campaign for repressing Jehovah's Witnesses on the basis of fabricated charges.
Arkady Akopian was charged with distributing forbidden literature and also with arousing hatred. The charges were constructed on testimonies of six witnesses who declared that they attended meetings of Jehovah's Witnesses and heard Akopian speak disrespectfully about Muslims and Orthodox priests.
The court examined the evidence of the parties over the course of a year and a half. During the sessions facts indicating the fabrication of the case were adduced. One of them was the billing of the cell phones of witnesses. He pointed out that during religious meetings, the witnesses for the prosecution not only were not at the worship services on many of the stated days, but were not even in the city of Prokhladny. Besides, the billing showed a close link of witnesses with personnel of the security structures, which cast doubt on the impartiality of the testimonies.
The witnesses themselves got mixed up in their testimonies and were not able to describe details of where and how Akopian "committed a crime." It turned out that on the day when, according to materials of the case, Arkady Akopian expressed from the stage "hatred or enmity" against representatives of other religions, he did not even speak at all at the meeting of Jehovah's Witnesses.
Arkady Akopian denies the charges and maintains that he never saw the witnesses for the prosecution at religious meetings before the day personnel of law enforcement agencies arrived at the Kingdom Hall and planted forbidden literature in the building. On that day he saw for the first time one of these witnesses for the prosecution, who tried to bring forbidden literature into the building. The majority of the witnesses for the prosecution he saw only in court or in the course of investigative actions.
After Arkady Akopian delivers his last word, the judge of the Prokhladny district court will retire for delivering the sentence. (tr. by PDS, posted 21 December 2018)
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