Rostov Jehovah's Witness loses first appeal, plans a second


Kavkazskii Uzel, 30 September 2021


The Rostov oblast court left in force the suspended prison term for a believer from Rostov-on-Don, Olga Ganusha, in a case concerning an extremist organization.


As Kavkazskii Uzel has written, in court Olga Ganusha declared that she did not participate in the activity of a legal entity that had been banned by a court but merely exercised her constitutional right to freedom of religious confession. A field officer who was questioned by the court had difficulty answering the defense's question about how and where Ganusha promoted extremism. During the debates, the prosecutor demanded to sentence the woman to a three-year suspended prison sentence and the defense asked for the believer to be acquitted. The court of the first instance on 13 July ruled that Olga Ganusha was a member of an extremist organization and sentenced her to a two-year suspended prison term. The believer decided to appeal the verdict.


The appeal by Olga Ganusha and her attorney against the verdict was reviewed today in the Rostov oblast court. Five fellow believers arrived to support Ganusha, a Kavkazskii Uzel correspondent who attended the session reported.


Olga Ganusha's court-appointed attorney, Andrei Kravchenko, called the verdict unreasonable. He declared that in issuing the verdict, the trial court violated the requirements of the articles of the Russian constitution on freedom of religious confession (article 28) and the separation of religious organizations from the state and their equality before the law (article 14), as well as the norms of international law in the articles of the European Convention on Human Rights regarding freedom of thought, conscience, and religion (article 9) and freedom of assembly (article 11).


"Ganusha met in a group of her acquaintances, based on religious interests, who had the goal of merely discussing the topic of religion. She did not cause any harm to society and the state and her actions had nothing to do with extremism," the attorney declared. He added that in the court of first instance the case from the oblast ministry of justice was examined and "it was established that Ganusha was not a founder or member of the organization ("Rostov-on-Don Central—K.U. note)," Kravchenko pointed out. He asked that the verdict of the Voroshilov district court of Rostov-on-Don be overturned and a verdict of acquittal be issued.


Olga Ganusha emphasized in court that the 28th article of the constitution permits the profession of any religion. "I have always been guided by biblical commands and I have never urged either hostility or violation of the constitutional order or rejection of medical care," she told the judges. Ganusha also added that she never used extremist literature.


The representative of the prosecutor's office called the verdict legal and reasonable. She said that Ganusha's guilt "was fully proven and confirmed by the materials of the case" and the punishment was just. The prosecutor asked that the verdict be left without change.


Olga Ganusha asked to court to render for her "a just verdict with the right to rehabilitation." "In the court of the first instance I repeatedly told the court that I did not understand how my good deeds and the deeds of my fellow believers can be extremist and aimed at hostility, violence, and aggression. I am a believing person and everything that I believe is based on the Bible. I did not urge anybody by force to join an organization and I only encouraged people to read the Bible," she said.


Nevertheless the panel of judges left the verdict without change and left the appeals by Ganusha and her attorney without satisfaction.


After the trial Olga Ganusha told a Kavkazskii Uzel correspondent that she intends to file a cassation appeal. (tr. by PDS, posted 30 September 2021)

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