Tuesday 2 March




by Tatyana Titova, Keston News Service

The Moscow directorate of justice, part of the administration of

Moscow mayor YURI LUZHKOV, has come out clearly on the side of the

prosecution in a controversial religious-freedom case against the

Jehovah�s Witnesses. A representative of the justice directorate,

YELENA FILLIPCHUK, asked the court on 1 March to liquidate the Moscow

branch of the Jehovah�s Witnesses. The justice directorate supported

three of the five grounds presented by the prosecution: infringement

of the person, rights and freedoms of a citizen; the destruction of

families; and the refusal of Jehovah�s Witnesses to serve in the


Previously on 23 February, when the trial was already well underway,

a layers for the anti-cult Committee for the Salvation of Youth,

IRINA SERGIYENKO, was given a document authorising her to represent

the directorate of justice for the city of Moscow. Thus the

directorate of justice broke its neutral position after seemingly

trying to avoid taking a public position in the case. When the judge

YELENA PROKHORYCHEVA asked to have an explanation in writing for this

infringement of court procedure, Yelena Fillipchuk, a genuine

employee of the justice administration, was sent to the court in her


The 16 February session of the court trial was preceded by a

demonstration by a group of unknown Orthodox believers carrying

icons, including men in secular clothes who described themselves as

priests. They had come to support the procuracy's efforts against the

Jehovah's Witness community. When asked whom they represented, the

demonstrators replied simply `the Orthodox Church'. Asked which

parish or committee of the Orthodox Church, they said that they were

from various parishes.

During the court session, three men in military uniform tried to

force their way into the courtroom, saying that they had come to

maintain order. As the courtroom was already overcrowded, the judge

did not allow them in. The coordinator of the Administrative Centre

of the Jehovah's Witnesses of Russia, VASILI KALIN, the head of the

Jehovah's Witnesses in the country, told Keston News Service that he

had approached the three and asked them which branch of the armed

forces they represented. `We represent the Orthodox Army,' they

replied, adding: `When we come to power we will build an Orthodox


Keston spoke with some of the demonstrators. Asked why the Orthodox

did not like the Jehovah's Witnesses, a young man responded: `It's

disgusting - they go in pairs from apartment to apartment with the

Bible, like wolves in sheep's clothing.' Asked if he believed it was

right to resolve such problems in a civil court, he agreed that `it

is not the business of a civil court, rather it should be on the

representation of individual citizens who have concrete complaints

that criminal cases should be inaugurated.' Asked whether Orthodoxy

should not fight with other methods, the young man countered: `The

Orthodox Church is not participating in the trial, it is the state

and the procuracy which are concerned about citizens.' (The

procuracy's current case is based mostly not on actual complaints of

specific acts of law-breaking, but on evaluations of the religious

doctrines of the Jehovah's Witnesses by such specialists as ALEKSANDR


On 16 February the Jehovah's Witnesses' lawyers GALINA KRYLOVA and

ARTUR LEONTYEV responded to the procuracy's charges. Krylova

described the application to liquidate the Moscow congregation as

`aggressive rudeness', pointing out yet again that the procurator

could not cite any specific instances of violations by the

congregation of any Russian law. This speech clearly made an

impression: on the following Monday, 22 February, representative of

the procuracy TATYANA KONDRATYEVA announced in court that the

procuracy would be filing a criminal case against Krylova on the

grounds that she had 'insulted' the procurator. (Such cases are

usually brought against lawyers only for offences such as bribery.)

Lawyers for the Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the procuracy is

artificially dragging out the trial. On 17 February the procuracy

representative did not arrive at all at court and only an hour after

the session should have started did a fax arrive from the procuracy

asking that, in view of the fact that all the procurator's aides were

busy, the court be adjourned until 22 February. In addition, the

procuracy's representative has continually asked time-consuming

questions such as `What contribution have the Jehovah's Witnesses

made to world culture?', `Do you consider that public opinion in

Russia is hostile to them?' and `If you do not consider Christ to be

God, why do you trust so much in his words in the Gospel?'

Judge PROKHORYCHEVA declared: `I was obliged to inform the procuracy

that the trial was being disrupted. Out of nine days, we have worked

only six - and that is the fault of the procuracy's representative.'

The delays in the case have already had a negative impact on the

Jehovah's Witnesses. The lawyer Leontyev told Keston that `on the

basis of the fact that a court case is continuing against us, we have

been refused a hall to rent for meetings in Moscow, while the

question of acquiring a plot of land to build a headquarters has been

left hanging in mid-air'. Kalin, the head of the Jehovah�s Witnesses

in Russia, declared: `We have 900 congregations in all, but

registration under the new law has been achieved for only 26. We are

being fobbed off with official replies saying that as the court case

is still going on in Moscow, registration will not go through for the

time being.' He said that re-registration of his confession's

Administrative Centre, mandatory under the new religion law, has also

been postponed. (END)

Tuesday 2 March


by Roman Lunkin, Keston News Service

The chief official for church-state relations in Khakassia, in south-

western Siberia, accused Keston News Service of 'stirring up fuss in

the wild and corrupt west' over the provincial authorities' campaign

against a Lutheran mission in Tuim. The Lutherans won the long

campaign's latest battle in February when a provincial court declined

to annul their mission's registration. NIKOLAI VOLKOV, adviser to

the province's governor for relations with religious organisations,

told Keston in a telephone interview that the rights of the Lutherans

were not being threatened because if they lost their registration

they could still apply for re-registration under Russia's new 1997

law on religion.

According to the mission's pastor PAVEL ZAYAKIN, Volkov personally

told him in late 1997 that he was determined to close the mission.

Volkov told Keston that he wanted to 'leave the mission in peace',

contrary to the 'howling in the gutter human-rights press'. But he

continued to insist that the mission had violated the rules for

registration under the 1990 law on religion which has now been

replaced by the 1997 law. If his view were to prevail, the mission

would become subject to the 1997 law's controversial 'fifteen-year

rule' and would thus lose the rights to engage in educational and

publishing activities.

The Lutherans' lawyer, VLADIMIR RYAKHOVSKY, told Keston that the

court had vindicated the mission on all the charges against them.

The court rejected the local procuracy's argument that the

registration should be cancelled because seven of the mission's ten

original founders had failed to confirm their adherence to

Lutheranism when interrogated by local police and the FSB (the re-

named KGB). Ryakhovsky maintained that these interrogations exceeded

the authority of the law-enforcement agencies and thus violated the

principle of the neutrality of the state towards religion, and he

criticised the court for not formally declaring the interrogations to

be illegal.

The second charge against the Lutherans was that the mission's

founding meeting had not been conducted correctly, since only five of

the ten founders had been physically present to approve its charter;

the other five had later been surveyed individually. But the court

accepted Ryakhovsky's view that an actual meeting was not required,

only the express consent of ten believers to the charter. The final

point on the charge-sheet consisted of the technical inconsistencies

in the statute of the Lutheran mission, which were deemed to be


Ryakhovsky confirmed to Keston that Volkov had not taken part in the

trial, being present in the court room only as a spectator. Volkov

himself said that he personally opposed the trial, preferring other


Deacon Pavel Zayakin, the head of the mission, told Keston that the

court decision nevertheless did not guarantee a quiet life. He

remains concerned by the decision of the court of appeals in Abakan,

the Khakassian capital. The appeals court last November upheld the

decision of a district court that the registration of the Lutheran

mission was illegal, but then in December ruled to exclude from the

lower court's decision the wording that the mission enjoyed all

rights in conducting its religious activity. Zayakin fears that this

proviso might in future be used to obstruct the mission, but he

declares that nevertheless the Lutherans will invite foreigners to

visit, publish the congregation's newspaper "New Tuim" and give

religious lessons to children.

Zayakin said that the Lutherans were now trying not only to re-

register the Tuim mission, but to register a religious organisation

comprising four other local bodies which have considered themselves

Lutheran for 15 years or more. (END)