Small concession from state for Jehovah's Witness


Kavkazskii Uzel, 1 March 2021


The prosecutor of the Maisky district of Kabardino-Balkaria sent to the leader of the religious congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, Yury Zalipaev, official apologies for a baseless criminal prosecution. This is the first such instance since the time of the ban on the activity of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia.


As Kavkazskii Uzel has written, in October 2020, the Maisky court in Kabardino-Balkaria acquitted Yury Zalipaev, who had been charged with calls for extremism. The prosecutor, who requested for him two years in a penal colony settlement, appealed this decision, but the Supreme Court of the republic also took Zalipaev's side and granted to him the right to rehabilitation.


Zalipaev was accused of speaking disparagingly about Muslims and Orthodox during Jehovah's Witnesses' services, calling for beating them. In addition, according to the prosecution's account, Zalipaev distributed religious literature that is on the Federal List of Forbidden Materials. Zalipaev himself declared that he was unable to say what he was accused of.


Zalipaev's lawyer, Anton Omelchenko, reported today to a Kavkazskii Uzel correspondent that a letter arrived from the prosecutor's office with official apologies. "In accordance with the requirements of part 1 of article 136 of the Criminal Procedural Code of the RF, I convey to you official apologies for the harm caused," the letter says, over the signature of the prosecutor of the region, Lukianenko. The letter is dated 25 February.


This is the first instance in three years of an official statement of apologies to a Jehovah's Witness on the part of the state, Omelchenko pointed out. "However I would hope not for apologies. I would hope that there would be no unjust persecution at all. I am thankful to those who facilitate this goal, guided by justice in each individual case," the lawyer said.


There has not been a single apology since the ban on the activity of Jehovah's Witnesses in 2017, a representative of the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses, Yaroslav Sivulsky, emphasized. "The fact that the prosecutor apologized means that he is following the letter of the law and acting professionally. We welcome that fact," he told a Kavkazskii Uzel correspondent. (tr. by PDS, posted 3 March 2021)

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