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Criminal conviction in Russia seen as an “attack on freedom of expression and religion”

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For Immediate Release | November 22, 2011 | (Russian)

GORNO-ALTAYSK, Russia—An appeal hearing contesting the criminal conviction of Aleksandr Kalistratov will be heard by the Supreme Court of the Altay Republic on December 22, 2011. Charged with inciting religious hatred, Kalistratov, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, was acquitted for lack of evidence in April 2011. Unsatisfied, the prosecution appealed and the Supreme Court of the Altay Republic ordered a retrial with a different judge that resulted in a reversal of the not-guilty verdict.

“During the retrial, the same evidence was examined and the same witnesses testified, but the new judge reached an opposite conclusion,” stated Kalistratov’s attorney, Viktor Zhenkov. He continued: “It seems as though the ruling to acquit was overturned specifically so that a different judge would interpret the facts differently.” Mikhail Odintsov, of the Russian Ombudsman’s Office, made the following assessment of the verdict: “In a contradiction of all the evidence, the lawful actions of Aleksandr Kalistratov have been interpreted as a crime.”

Amnesty International described the verdict as “an attack on freedom of expression and religion,” adding that Aleksandr Kalistratov's conviction “contradicts Russia's own legislation as well as its obligations under international human rights law,” and concluded that the verdict “should be quashed.”

Article Source: JW-Media.org


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