VOLGOGRAD JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES ASK COURT TO ACQUIT THEM
Kavkazskii Uzel, 7 September 2021
In their final word, five Volgograd Jehovah's Witnesses declared their innocence and asked the court to acquit them, attorney Roman Levin reported.
As Kavkazskii Uzel has written, on 10 December the court permitted the Volgograd Jehovah's Witnesses to leave their housees but it left the prohibition on use of the telephone and internet. It is difficult for the defendants to find work while the investigation is going on, the wife of one of them explained. On 16 February, the five Jehovah's Witnesses from Volgograd charged with extremism declared in court that they did not engage in the activity of an organization that a court has banned, the lawyer stated. On 9 March, the prosecution requested for the defendants from 7 to 9 years imprisonment. In the event of real imprisonment, the families of the Volgograd Jehovah's Witnesses will be left without breadwinners, relatives of the defendants stated. The state prosecution requested record prison terms, concludes Alexander Verkhovsky, director of the SOVA Center for News and Analysis.
Five Volgograd Jehovah's Witnesses—Valery Rogozin, Sergei Melnik, Igor Egosarian, Viacheslav Osipov, and Denis Persunko--are accused of participating in an organization that a court has ruled to be extremist. They insist that they are not involved in the activity of a legal entity that has been banned by a court but they simply profess their own religion. According to the believers' defense attorneys, evidence is being produced in court that has nothing to do with the essence of the accusations nor with the religious views of the defendants, and the religious studies expert analysis has not explained what the accused believers' extremism consists of.
From 31 August to 2 September, the debates of the parties have been going on in the Traktorozavod court of Volgograd in the case of Valery Rogozin, Sergei Melnik, Igor Egozarian, Viacheslav Osipov, and Denis Peresunko, and today the defendants delivered their final word, one of their lawyers, Roman Levin, explained for a Kavkazskii Uzel correspondent.
"The debates went on for three days. The prosecutor requested the same prison terms as the last time: seven years each for Egozarian and Melnik, nine years each for Rogozin and Peresunko, and nine and a half years for Osipov. I said in the debates that the defendants had not committed a crime and that all their actions were religious worship. The defendants explained that they have not committed crimes and they asked that they be acquitted," the attorney explained.
Believers came to the court in order to support the defendants, but they were not allowed into the courtroom because of coronavirus restrictions," Sergei Melnik's wife, Anna, explained for a Kavkazskii Uzel correspondent.
"Today 54 person arrived. They were not allowed into the court. Perhaps the wives will still be allowed for the verdict if the guys submit a petition. Because they will immediately be taken into custody from the courtroom. The verdict will be announced on 20 September, but if it isn't finished it will continue on 23 September," Sergei Melnik's wife said.
from her husband, she related what the defendants said in their
"Denis [Peresunko] called attention in his final word to the
fact that he
is not any kind of extremist, but on the contrary, he lives in
the Bible and it has made him better. Igor [Egozarian] said that
Witnesses (were persecuted) both in Germany and in the Soviet
subsequently they were rehabilitated and recognized as innocent,
what they were. Valery [Rogozin] called attention to the laws
which he cannot be considered guilty, because both the United
Nations and the
European Union recognize us as innocent. He also called
attention to the fact
that the Bible helped him to build a happy family. My husband,
said that people got the opportunity to learn about God because
the hearing was
extremely long. Now it turns out that according to the
constitution we have the
right to profess our faith, but we are condemned for that
because the law of
God has been replaced by man's law," Anna Melnik explained. (tr.
posted 8 September 2021)
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