Court dismisses case against Jehovah's Witness in south of Russia


by Liudmila Maratova

Kavkazskii Uzel, 15 March 2019


The court refused to grant the appeal of the prosecutor's office demanding that Yury Zalipaev, a Jehovah's Witness from Maiskii, be denied the possibility of proving his innocence of inciting hatred and strife. The charge of Zalipaev's calling for extremism has not been dropped.


As Kavkazskii Uzel has written, Yury Zalipaev was charged with inflaming religious strife and encouraging extremist activity. Zalipaev himself does not acknowledge his guilt. Zalipaev's defense pointed out the illegitimacy of prosecuting Jehovah's Witnesses inasmuch as the ban of their organization does not mean a ban on the religion itself.


According to the version of the prosecution, while preaching in the Kingdom Hall, Yury Zalipaev not only spoke disparagingly about Muslims and Orthodox, but also urged other Jehovah's Witnesses to beat them. The prosecution maintains that Zalipaev also distributed religious literature that is included in the Federal List of Prohibited Materials. The defense insists that the forbidden literature was planted in the house of worship.


On 23 January, a judge of the Maiskii district court, on the basis of a petition from the prosecutor, dismissed a criminal case based on the offense in part 1 of article 282 because of its decriminalization. At the same time, Zalipaev's prosecution on the basis of the article "Public calls for conducting extremist activity" continues. A recess was declared in the district court for the duration of the consideration of the appeal by the prosecutor's office.


The prosecution disagreed with the fact that the district court not only closed the case but also recognized for Zalipaev the right to rehabilitation because of the criminal prosecution. Today the Kabardino-Balkaria Supreme Court refused to grant the appeal of the prosecutor's office, leaving the decision of the Maiskii district court in force, a Kavkazskii Uzel correspondent reported.


During the court session, the prosecutor cited article 133 of the Criminal Procedural Code, "Grounds for raising the right to rehabilitation." Attorney Anton Omelchenko objected that the prosecutor not only filed a petition for dismissing the criminal case against Zalipaev but also dropped the charge. "The defendant for whom the criminal prosecution was stopped because of the state prosecutor's dropping the charge has the right to rehabilitation, and there are no grounds for depriving him of this right," the attorney stated, also citing article 133 of the Criminal Procedural Code. Omelchenko added that depriving Zalipaev of the right to rehabilitation violates the Convention on Protection of Human Rights and Basic Freedoms. He asked the court to return the case to the Maiskii district court.


If the defendant insists on his innocence, then the termination of the criminal prosecution on the grounds of nonrehabilitation is possible only on the condition that the prosecution shows the legitimacy of the prosecution itself, Anton Omelchenko told a Kavkazskii Uzel correspondent. "Despite the decriminalization of part 1 of article 282 of the CC RF, the accused is not deprived of the right of proving his innocence, including the fact that he did not commit any of those actions of which he is accused," he explained.


Zalipaev remains under a signed promise not to depart


"I am able to travel only about Kabardino-Balkaria and I do not have the right to go across its borders," Yury Zalibaev told the Kavkazskii Uzel correspondent. As before, he is making his living by welding jobs. Zalipaev noted that the criminal prosecution has evoked sympathy in others. "On the contrary, they sympathize with me," he said.


More than twenty members of the congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses came to the court to support Zalipaev. They said that the ban on the organization did not have an impact on the attitude of local residents toward them. "Many asked why it is we that have been banned," a woman called Natasha noted. [. . .]


We recall that on 1 March the Kabardino-Balkaria Supreme Court also dismissed the case of a Jehovah's Witness from Prokhladnyi, Arkady Akopian, because of the decriminalization of the article regarding incitement of hatred and strife. At the same time, Akopian did not receive the right to rehabilitation. (tr. by PDS, posted 15 March 2019)

Background articles:
Jehovah's Witness exonerated by court
March 1, 2019

Jehovah's Witnesses' attorney tries to persuade court about their legal rights
November 24, 2018
Jehovah's Witness leader on trial in south of Russia
September 12, 2018
Jehovah's Witness on trial in southern Russia
August 27, 2018

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