Jehovah's Witnesses family harassed by authorities


Kavkazskii Uzel, 23 March 2021


A Rostov oblast court left without change the decision in the case of the Jehovah's Witness Galina Parkova, who had earlier been given a suspended sentence of two years and three months on a charge of participating in an extremist organization.


As Kavkazskii Uzel has reported, the Jehovah's Witness from Rostov-on-Don Galina Parkova at the first session in the case did not agree with the charge presented of participation in the activity of an extremist organization and regarded it as baseless. Members of the congregation of believers declared in court that Parkova did not encourage anybody to commit violence and extremist activities. On 26 January a court in Rostov-on-Don ruled that Galina Parkova is a member of an extremist organization and sentenced her to a suspended sentence of two years and three months in prison. The believer refused to acknowledge herself to be guilty.


On 22 March the Rostov oblast court reviewed the appeal by Galina Parkova and her attorney against the verdict, a Kavkazskii Uzel correspondent who attended the session related. Three fellow believers arrived to support Parkova, who presented her a bouquet of flowers.


Parkova's attorney Tatiana Krasnikova emphasized that in its verdict the court relied on Parkova's use of extremist literature, although there was not a single copy of the referenced book "Sacred Scripture—New World Translation" (in the 2014 edition) in the materials of the case and this book also was not found in the apartments of Parkova and other defendants. An expert who was questioned in court, according to Krasnikova, reported that in 2014 the entire press run of the book of the said edition was seized by customs at the border and copies did not make it into Russia.


In court, some witnesses for the prosecution actually rescinded their own evidence in the preliminary investigation, since "the people did not understand what they were being asked," the attorney noted.


"None of them denied that they profess the faith of Jehovah's Witnesses, but they did not understand that they were talking about participating in the activity of a legal entity. In judicial session people said that they did in fact attend meetings—a number of persons who gathered together and sang and prayed," Parkova's defense attorney said.


Krasnikova also noted that the legal entity "Jehovah's Witnesses Central, Rostov-on-Don" has been active since 1999, but Parkova arrived at her permanent place of residence in Rostov-on-Don only in December 2016, and therefore to say that she "continued the activity of a legal entity" is incorrect. The attorney called attention to the fact that in the foundation document of the local religious organization "Jehovah's Witnesses Central, Rostov-on-Don" there is no mention of Parkova as a director, founder, or other employee.


"It is impossible to ban a religion. There is article 28 of the constitution, which says that people, both collectively and individually, may profess any religion (. . . .) My client did not have anything to do with this legal entity and nobody can forbid her studying the Bible and taking advantage of article 28 of the constitution," Tatiana Krasnikova concluded. She requested issuing to Parkova a verdict of acquittal.


Galina Parkova herself noted that Jehovah's Witnesses are peaceful people: "The court of the first instance relied on the results of the pretrial investigation. During the trial itself all witnesses for the prosecution indicated that I have nothing to do with an extremist organization nor with extremism. The religious studies specialist who was summoned laid out all the explanations: Jehovah's Witnesses are peaceful people, Christians, who are loyal to governing authority; they never participate in rallies and protests and any activities associated with violence," she said.


She also noted that "the Supreme Court did not ban the religious teaching of the Jehovah's Witnesses." "I did not have extremist materials. There are no calls for violence, genocide, or overthrow of the government. I have no reason nor intent to commit a crime of an extremist nature. There are no victims in my case," she noted.


Parkova also noted that "from the first day of the criminal prosecution she was included in the list of Rosfinmonitoring." "I do not have the right to have an account in banks in the R.F. and that means no salary card. This creates great difficulty. It is impossible to get employment. I do not have the right to sick leave since F.S.S. pays only to a bank card. And even in such a difficult situation I continue to be a law-abiding citizen. I registered as self-employed in order to pay taxes (. . . .) I will be able to get off the Rosfinmonitoring list several years after the expiration of my punishment. I ask the court to take this penalty into account. I hope that the law will still triumph and common sense as well," she said.


In his turn, prosecutor Aleksei Chebrikov, who participated earlier in Parkova's trial in the court of the first instance, considered the verdict to be legal and reasonable and he asked that it be left without change The state prosecutor considered that Parkova's participation in an extremist organization had been proven by the results of various expert analyses and also by testimony of specialists and witnesses which the "court gave a proper assessment." The prosecutor's office did not suggest to the court an increase in the severity of Parkova's punishment.


"Your honor. I am a Christian woman. I try to act as Jesus acted. My compass is the Bible. To be a peaceful person is my essence. The Bible says: 'If it is possible on your part, be at peace with all people.' The New Testament also says: 'Let every soul be subject to higher authorities, because there is no authority that is not from God and existing authorities are established by God.' I will follow these biblical principles all my life. My peace-loving and good relations with people around me are confirmed by the materials of the criminal case. The life of a Christian, everything, without exception, is built on the command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' In that there is no room for hatred and violence. Boiling water poured into a cup cannot be called coffee so long as there are not the corresponding ingredients in it; water remains water. It makes no sense to stamp extremist on a peaceful person. The 'ingredients' for such a, so to speak, 'label' are absent and the law and the constitution protect me from discrimination on the basis of religious identity. On paper, at least, that's how the case stands. I ask you to make a just decision and to acquit me," Galina Parkova said in her final word.


Nevertheless the panel of judges left the verdict without change and the appeals of Parkova and her attorney without satisfaction. Only the introduction and the sentence part of the decision were read.


Parkova's defense attorney, Tatiana Krasnikova, told a Kavkazskii Uzel correspondent that she did not agree with the verdict and the appellate determination of the Rostov oblast court and she intends to file a cassation appeal.


"A little bit later, when the criminal case is returned to the Lenin district court, the sentence will be executed and documents will be sent to the criminal oversight office at the place of Parkova's residence. When she will go to the criminal overseer will be specified as will what obligations she will have. For example, to appear on call twice a month and to state, for example, where she works and the restrictions not to change her place of residence without notifying the overseer. All these restrictions will be explained for her there and she will answer for this protocol," Krasnikova explained.


In the Lenin district court of Rostov-on-Don there also is continuing the consideration of the criminal case against Parkova's husband, Alexander Parkov, and also Arsen and Vilen Avanesov, who are charged with arranging the activity of an extremist organization. The latest session was held on 22 March. The prosecution is continuing to present evidence in the trial: questioning witnesses and reviewing the written materials, Tatiana Krasnikova stated.


Galina Parkova described for a Kavkazskii Uzel correspondent how she is concerned for the health of her spouse in the investigation cell. "Of course, my husband is very weary of the SIZO because he has been there almost two years now, since 22 May 2019. He has problems with his stomach and I am not able to treat him in any way. It is impossible to take care of hi and what I bring him (medicines) is inadequate. His stomach aches frequently. He has a secondary immune deficiency, lowered immunity. I myself just recovered from the coronavirus, on 15 February. On 15 March I had a negative test. This illness was very severe, insidious, there was pneumonia after the covid and lung infection and now there is osteochondrosis. I am going for treatments. Everybody knows that he has problems with his health and depressed immunity; this is all in the criminal case but they continue to hold him in the SIZO," she complained.


Parkova also said that she is appearing as a witness in the case involving her husband and she gave her testimony in court on 18 March. "In the session on 18 March he was exhausted. I hope that he will not be sent to a prison colony," Parkova added. (tr. by PDS, posted 23 March 2021)

Background articles:
Support for Jehovah's Witnesses prisoners needed
December 8, 2020

Another criminal conviction of Jehovah's Witnesses woman
January 26, 2021

Russia Religion News Current News Items

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