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A Man of Peace is Judged for His Faith

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In the Elbrus region, a man of peace is judged for his faith

1 Feb 2018


On the dock of the Prokhladnensky City Court, Arkady Akopovich Hakobyan, 70, who worked all his life with his own hands, fled to the city of Prokhladny (Kabardino-Balkaria) from the armed conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. Arkady Akopovich - Jehovah's Witness in religion, because of what he is now subject to criminal prosecution under the article "extremism" (Part 1, Article 282 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).


The prosecution is based on the testimony of five prosecution witnesses who, not being followers of the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses, claim that they allegedly distributed the publications of Jehovah's Witnesses on the instructions of Hakobyan only after they visited several religious meetings (which is improbable in and of itself). In addition, these people claim that during the service Hakobyan delivered a speech in which he criticized other religions. Earlier Hakobyan appealed to the Investigative Committee of Russia with a request to bring these five witnesses to criminal liability for false testimony. However, a proper verification of his application for a crime has not yet been carried out.


The court proceeded to consider the case on May 16, 2017. 9 volumes of the case were read out and witnesses of the prosecution were questioned. Due to the weakness of the evidence, the state prosecutor drew even the police officers as witnesses, who did not see the facts of the distribution of literature and did not attend divine services, but only participated in operative-investigative actions against believers. On January 10, 2018, the state prosecutor announced the end of the submission of evidence.


On 11, 30 and 31 January 2018, the defense party represented its evidence to the court. Lawyers claim that there was not the very event of the crime, that is, Hakobyan did not deliver a speech about which the witnesses of the prosecution spoke. It is interesting that the lawyers submitted to the court information about the whereabouts of the mobile phones of the prosecution witnesses, and it turned out that none of them on that date was even near the liturgical building. To somehow justify themselves, prosecution witnesses falsely stated that believers "were forbidden to bring mobile phones to worship", so they "did not take them with them." Naturally, lawyers could just as well present evidence to the court that there is no ban on mobile phones, that believing telephones brought with them to divine services and even broadcast a spiritual program for those, who is sick. This served as additional proof of perjury. In addition, the prosecution witnesses incorrectly called both the internal situation of the liturgical building and the composition of the religious groups in which the services were held. Finally, the court is presented with numerous testimonies that there were no such citizens at worship.


Sonia Hakobyan, the wife of the defendant, was interrogated as a witness of the defense. Unlike Arkadi Akopovich, she is not a baptized Witness of Jehovah. Nevertheless, they have been in a happy marriage for about 40 years. The husband, becoming a Witness of Jehovah 25 years ago, never forced her or his children to change their religion. All this does not correspond to the accusation against "Hakobyan" in "extremism". Both the family and neighbors, among whom people of different nationalities, cultures and religions, respect the Arcadians, know him as a kind and sympathetic person.


The hearing will continue in the Prokhladnensky City Court on February 20, 2018 at 10:00.



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