UFA COURT INVESTIGATES SURVEILLANCE OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESS ACCUSED OF EXTREMISM
by Darya Kucherenko
Kommersant, 5 February 2021
The Lenin district court of Ufa today began an examination of materials of the criminal case of Anatoly Vilitkevich, who is accused of creating a cell of the religious movement of Jehovah's Witnesses, which was ruled by the Russian Supreme Court to be an extremist organization (part 1, article 282.2 of CC RF).
At the start of the session, Judge Oksana Ilalova refused to grant the petition for terminating the proceedings in the case filed by Mr. Vilitkevich and his attorney at the previous session. Anatoly Vilitkevich asked to terminate the criminal case, citing the decision of the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled the prosecution of members of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia to be illegal. Opposing the petition, the prosecutor declared that for the Russian legal system, the constitution takes priority; it prohibits the creation of organizations that aim to incite religious strife.
In the course of two hours, the state prosecutor read excerpts from the volumes of the criminal case. The materials examined showed that in 2017 in the rented one-room apartment where Mr. Vilitkevich lived with his spouse, equipment was installed for secretly making video and audio recordings. Permission for setting up the surveillance devices had been given by the owner of the apartment, who wrote a receipt stating that "he had no complaints against the police." A camera was installed in the room.
The materials of the case show that, using the concealed camera and wire taps, the police collected and turned over to the investigative committee evidence that Mr. Vilitkevich led a cell of a religious organization that has been ruled in Russia to be extremist. Law enforcement agencies considered that such evidence included the fact that Anatoly Vilitkevich and his wife invited to their apartment other Jehovah's Witnesses, with whom they ate dinner, sang religious songs, viewed films on a religious topic, and discussed issues of spreading their faith among other people. Anatoly Vilitkevich also was responsible for managing funds that Jehovah's Witnesses donated for various needs.
The materials of the case include transcripts from the listening devices in which the Vilitkevich spouses discuss the preparation for the arrival of guests and domestic matters. For more than an hour the prosecutor read the verbatim transcript of the recorded conversations, including such remarks as "Anatoly and Alena are in an adjacent room. Alena is cleaning. Then the music plays loudly," "Alena laughs," "Kotik, when we sing songs the door must be closed." The transcripts include an explanation of the color and style of clothing worn by people in the room at the time of the recording.
The prosecutor also read excerpts from an expert analysis of religious literature conducted at the request of the investigative committee. The experts concluded that it is extremist inasmuch as it "maintains the superiority of Jehovah's Witnesses, and followers of other religions are said to be deserving of sorrow." The expert analysis shows that the ideology of Jehovah's Witnesses "leaves no religious alternative."
At the next session, which is scheduled for 26
court plans to conduct an examination of materials of the case,
proceed to questioning witnesses. (tr. by PDS, posted 8 February
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