JEHOVAH'S WITNESS SENTENCED TO CORRECTIVE LABOR IN KABARDINO-BALKARIA
Kavkazskii Uzel, 27 December 2018
Today a court found a Jehovah's Witness* from Prokhladnyi, Arkady Akopian, guilty of extremism and assigned him 120 hours of compulsory labor. The defense has decided to appeal the sentence.
As Kavkazskii Uzel has reported, on 21 December the prosecutor demanded a two years suspended prison term for 70-year-old Arkady Akopian. The defense requested a verdict of acquittal and Akopian called himself innocent in his final speech.
His attorney said that the charge against Akopian was built on testimony of six persons who stated that they heard Akopian speak disparagingly about Muslims and also about Orthodox priests during one of his speeches before the Jehovah's Witnesses.* Akopian himself declared that he did not say anything of the sort and that he had never seen the witnesses for the prosecution before. The cell phones of the people who gave testimony against Akopian were located far from the place where the services were being conducted, attorney Anton Omelchenko noted at the session on 5 September.
A Prokhladnyi district court sentenced Arkady Akopian to 120 hours of compulsory labor on the basis of the article about inciting hatred and enmity. The decision was announced today. The defense intends to appeal the sentence. In the past, all attempts to charge individual believers on the basis of article 282 of the Criminal Code have been unsuccessful, the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses* noted in a release that was placed at the disposal of Kavkazskii Uzel.
The court believed the witnesses for the prosecution who stated that they distributed Jehovah's Witnesses* brochures, while they did not share their religion. Other episodes of the case were ruled by the court to be unproven, the report says.
"Jehovah's Witnesses* never authorize outsiders to distribute our liturgical literature. This is a matter of principle. Finally, that some people who do not profess our religion would so unanimously undertake to disseminate the teaching of the Jehovah's Witnesses*--this is something out of the realm of fantasy. We are deeply distressed by the stigma of a criminal that the judge imposed on an honest and decent man," the release quotes the comments of a member of the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses,* Yaroslav Sivulsky.
As of 20:05 Moscow time on 27 December there was no information about Arkady Akopian's sentence on the website of the Prokhladnyi district court.
Note from Kavkazskii Uzel at 20:50 Moscow time on 27 December: We note that the sentence of Akopian was issued after the session of the Council on Human Rights of 17 November [sic—December?] at which the Russian president criticized the practice of prosecuting Jehovah's Witnesses. At the session of the Council on Human Rights, held on 17 December, political scientist Ekaterina Shulman pointed out that 404 of the 489 organizations considered in Russia to be extremist are religious societies of Jehovah's Witnesses.* Vladimir Putin agreed that characterizing representatives of religious communities as terrorist and destructive organizations was incorrect. "Of course, this is complete nonsense. It is necessary to deal attentively with this; here I agree with you," the website of the Kremlin quotes Putin's words.
*The organization is considered extremist and its activity in Russia is prohibited by decision of a court.
(tr. by PDS, posted 31 December 2018)
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