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Russian court issues guilty verdict despite lack of evidence - JW-Media.org

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Russian court issues guilty verdict despite lack of evidence

by JW-Media.org | For Immediate Release | November 3, 2011

GORNO-ALTAYSK, Russia—In a complete reversal, the Gorno-Altaysk City Court found 34-year-old Aleksandr Kalistratov guilty of inciting religious hatred during his retrial ordered by the Supreme Court of the Altay Republic. This decision comes in the wake of a to not-guilty verdict issued by the City Court on April 14, 2011. Mr. Kalistratov is sentenced to 100 hours of community service.

Numerous witnesses were called to testify during the proceedings. However, as was the case in the first trial, not one witness could provide evidence attesting to Kalistratov’s guilt. Mr. Viktor Zhenkov, who served as Kalistratov’s attorney stated, “We clearly demonstrated to the court that the charges are unfounded. We believe that today’s verdict is unlawful and exposes the illegal nature of the harassment campaign against Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. We are determined to take steps to ensure the reversal of the verdict and complete acquittal of this innocent man.”

Kalistratov related, “I was convicted in the absence of any victims or evidence and solely for my religious beliefs. The State recognized my religious activities as lawful for 20 years and now it has decided to convict me for those same activities. I am going to appeal the verdict.”

Human rights activists consider this guilty verdict to be a dangerous precedent for freedom of conscience and expression in Russia. Mr. Lev Levinson, an expert from the Human Rights Institute, stated, “This trial has made it clear that any individual can be put on trial based on extremism charges, regardless of his beliefs or occupation.” Mr. Aleksandr Verkhovsky, director of the SOVA Center for Information and Analysis, expressed his opinion, “Misapplication of the Russian [extremism] law has turned into a universal tool of repression.”

Article Source: JW-Media.org


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