Drawn-out trial reaches conclusion for Jehovah's Witness


Kavkazskii Uzel, 22 September 2020


The prosecution requested two years in a penal colony settlement for a Jehovah's Witness from Maisky, Yury Zalipaev. Zalipaev's defense attorney requested that the court fully exonerate him, recalling the contradictions in witnesses' testimony.


As Kavkazskii Uzel has written, the Maisky district court of Kabardino-Balkaria has been considering the case of Yury Zalipaev since 16 July 2018. There was an interruption in the sessions that lasted almost a year. On the basis of the prosecutor's petition, in July the court summoned experts for questioning who had drawn a conclusion about the absence of evidence of extremism in Zalipaev's statements. On 24 August, in court, the authors of the expert analysis confirmed their conclusions. On 26 August, the prosecutor requested a new expert analysis in Zalipaev's case, but the court did not grant this petition and scheduled the debates of the sides.


On 21 September, the debates in the case of Yury Zalipaev were held in the Maisky district court of Kabardino-Balkaria. The prosecutor requested giving the defendant real time—two years incarceration in a penal colony settlement.


Zalipaev's attorney Anton Omelchenko, speaking in the debates, cited the conclusion of a religious studies specialist which is in the materials of the Zalipaev case. According to the expert conclusion, "starting in the 1880s, there never has been advanced against Jehovah's Witnesses an accusation of expressing a threat or calls for using force against representatives of other religions or nonbelievers."


"By virtue of their Christian essence and specifics of their history as a 'persecuted church,' Jehovah's Witnesses have never called for violence or discriminatory activities against other religions, churches, nonbelievers, and even against governments persecuting them. As Christians they could not and did not approve nor commit such actions, and thus there is no evidence of this either in the literature, nor sources, nor judicial materials," the attorney declared, speaking in court.


Jehovah's Witnesses avoid any violence and calls for it. And it is precisely for this reason that they consistently refuse to perform military service and find violence unacceptable, the attorney noted. Believers refuse to serve in the army, to take up arms, and even simply to put on a military uniform, while they understand that they may face many years of court hearings and imprisonment, Omelcheko pointed out, citing the opinion of the religious studies specialist Mikhail Odintsov and the practice of the European Court of Human Rights.


The defense attorney analyzed the testimony of two main witnesses, whose evidence lay at the base of the case against Zalipaev. The attorney pointed to contradictions and inconsistencies in these testimonies: witnesses did not attend worship services during which Zalipaev, according to the prosecution, expressed hostile calls, and video or audio recordings confirming them do not exist.


The attorney also cited the conclusion of the complex forensic psychological-linguistic and religious studies expert analyses prepared by the Russian Federal Center of Forensic Expert Analysis under the Russian Ministry of Justice. According to the experts' conclusions, statements ascribed to Zalipaev "are not characteristic for his personality" and "do not reflect the worldview of the Jehovah's Witnesses."


Omelchenko asked the court to completely exonerate his client, whose personal and religious convictions "do not in any way correspond to the charges advanced."


In his final word, Yury Zalipaev quoted the Bible, citing the words of Jesus Christ about "judgments" against believers. "I feel at peace because I am being tried not for evil deeds, but for good deeds. I did not commit crime either against the state or against God," Zalipaev said.


The verdict in the Zalipaev case will be announced on 7 October. "Many months have passed of struggle during questioning of each witness in the case and in consideration of each petition. The prosecutor requested real time of imprisonment, which shows that the struggle is not over," Omelchenko said to a Kavkazskii Uzel correspondent, commenting on the conclusion of the session.


Zalipaev is under his own recognizance not to leave. He works as a welder and the measure of restriction does not limit his possibility of working. (tr. by PDS, posted 22 September 2020)

Related articles:
Judge shields Jehovah's Witness from additional examination
August 28, 2020

Expert opinion defends Jehovah's Witness in criminal trial
August 26, 2020

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