Jehovah's Witnesses convicted on dubious evidence


SOVA Center for News and Analysis, 27 December 2016


In October-November 2016 in the Urupsk border region of Karachay-Cherkessia, four followers of Jehovah's witnesses were fined.


On 27 December the press service of the border administration of the Russian FSB for the republic of Karachay-Cherkessia reported that in the Urupsk region four residents of the villages of Kurdzhinovo and Mednogorsk were fined 1,000 rubles each on the basis of article 20.29 of the Code of Administrative Violations of Law (Mass distribution of extremist materials). They were Svetlana Isaeva, Nadezhda Geraskova, Svetlana Kordiyaka, and Alena Kurganova. The prosecution of Geraskova and Kordiyaka was reported earlier.


Geraskova and Kurganova were fined on 28 October. The materials of the trial show that on 20 September, forbidden publications were seized in the home of Geraskova, many of them in several copies. These were books and brochures: "Questions of Youth. Practical Advice," "Come and follow me," "Attend to the prophecy of Daniel," "Worship the only true God," "We study in the school of theocratic ministry," "Apocalypse: its grand climax is at hand," "My book of Bible stories," "The Bible: God's word or man's?" "Draw neigh to Jehovah," "Humanity in search of God," "The greatest man who ever lived," "What does the Bible really teach?" "What does God require of us?" and issues of the magazine Watchtower from 15 March 2007, 1 April, 2007, 1 December, 2007, 1 January 2008, and 27 June 2011. Geraskova herself confirmed that literature and compact disks were also taken from her. In court, a witness spoke out confirming that Geraskova showed him on the screen of a tablet and offered him the book "Come and follow me." Another witness reported at first that Geraskova suggested that she read this, but then she declared that she had given false testimony, although the judge considered this declaration unreliable.


Then at Kurganova's house there were found publications "We witness reasonably about God's kingdom," "Life—how did it arise? By means of evolution or by means of creation?" What does one need to know about God and his purpose?" "How did life appear?" "Worship the only true God," and "How to develop close relations with God." Kurganova declared in court that she got these publications during harvest from a neighbor in order to heat the stove with them. However two witnesses told the court that the woman offered them religious literature.


The cases of Kordiyaka and Isaeva were considered on 22 November. In the decision of the Kordiyaka case it was pointed out that the publications "What should one know about God and his purpose?" and "Come and follow me" were discovered in her house. Two witnesses confirmed that in mid- and late August 2016, Kordiyaka offered these books to them. Testimonies of another two witnesses were found by the judge to be contradictory and the words of others that the witnesses for the prosecution had apologized to them for their testimony and that Kordiyaka was absent from the village of Kurdzhinovo from 20 August the judge considered not pertinent to the case.


As regards Isaeva, the court established that she kept the publication "My book of Bible stories" at her home and that on the weekend in the market of the village of Mednogorsk and during canvassing of houses she also distributed the publications "What should one know about God and his purpose?" "Worship the only true God," and issues of the magazine Awake with lead articles of "The crisis of pure water" and "Has religion lost its influence?"  Six witnesses declared this, while one of them submitted the magazine to personnel of law enforcement agencies. Isaeva herself maintained that she does not go to the market because she works on Saturdays and the book was found in her house when she returned.


Earlier, in 2012, the local congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses in Kurdzhinovo was fined for possession of extremist materials.


We consider the ban on the literature of Jehovah's Witnesses and prosecution of believers for its distribution to be illegal and we consider these actions by the authorities as religious discrimination. (tr. by PDS, posted 2 January 2017)

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