Unification News for October 1998

St. Petersburg Prosecutor vs. CARP

by Konstantin Krylov-St. Petersburg, Russia

Starting September 21st, a hearing took place in St. Petersburg City Court on the suit of the City Prosecutor vs. CARP. The court heard the explanations of the Prosecutor, the representative of the local Justice Department of the City Hall who joined the Prosecutor's suit and the objections of the students representing CARP.

The Prosecutor's suit follows a infamous suit brought by anti-cult activists back in 1995 demanding the dissolution of CARP and the payment for compensation of emotional distress in the amount of $6 million. At that time the St. Petersburg Court for the procedure on the suit accepted the proposed allegations of brainwashing and destroying Russia's people. The problem for the anti-cult movement was that it did not have the legal right to demand the dissolution of the organization. After CARP pointed out this circumstance to the court, the Prosecutor and the Justice Department joined in the process in 1996. Since then neither the Prosecutor's nor the suit of the Justice Department was scheduled for hearing because it was obvious to all that they served as a cover-up for the anti-cultists' process.

The present hearing came as a consequence of the radical changes that took place in the anti-cult case.

First Week

First of all, a Court Psychiatric Expert Examination was requested by the anti-cult activists to prove that due to brainwashing the members of this youth organization had become deeply insane and required forced psychiatric treatment. The examination demonstrated the opposite. Moreover, the psychiatrists, headed by the chief psychiatrist of St. Petersburg, proved that all the examined members of CARP were fully sane and that conflicts in their families originated long before the Unification Church was registered in Russia. The anti-cult activists relied next on a Criminalist Expertise Institute of St. Petersburg. Nevertheless, after studying the documents and publications of the Unification Church and CARP, the examination by this institution proved that there is nothing of a criminal nature in the teachings of these organizations. Later in May 1998 the same anti-cult group lost a court case in Moscow against the Unification Church. That is why the old suit of the St. Petersburg Prosecutor had to be pulled out of the closet. What was its formal basis?

In 1994 a group of student believers decided to register a branch of the Unification Church in St. Petersburg. There immediately came a warning from the Justice Department demanding that they stop religious activities. The stubborn believers nevertheless submitted the request to register their church bylaws in order to have right to rent halls for their services, etc. In response to this, the Justice Department sent a new warning to CARP demanding that they stop religious activities and the Prosecutor solicited the court to dissolve the organization. The students disputed the Justice Department's warning in the court. At the same time the believers of the Unification Church addressed their complaint to the court about the Justice Department's refusal to register their bylaws.

It became absurd. The public organization CARP is to be dissolved due to its religious activities. At the same time the church community cannot register because its teaching is not recognized as religious.

All this would peacefully be resolved but the failure of the anti-cult group created complications. For example, the court has not dealt with the complaints of the student group and religious community for three years. The chairman of the court explained that the hearing couldn't take place without the documents that still have not been provided by the Justice Department. Now the anti-cult group can be saved through the Prosecutor. The group was called to the court in the summer of 1998 and found a pretext to have the court postpone its hearing until November. The anti-cultists made every possible effort to become witnesses in the Prosecutor's case. It was suddenly scheduled for hearing after three years of inactivity. In reality, if the Prosecutor succeeds in dissolving CARP, it will automatically stop the anti-cult group's case and will also solve the problem of refusal to register the church bylaws in St. Petersburg.

Another issue is weather the Prosecutor has enough of a legal basis to liquidate CARP. The main claims of the Prosecutor have not changed since 1996. These are artificial formalities not required by law, studies of Unification Church teachings (directly stated in the bylaws), no re-registration of the association's bylaws in accordance with the new law "On Public Associations" of 1995. The Justice Department joined these allegations, adding, "the charity programs held by the students violate the law and the organization's bylaws."

The students demonstrated in the court that they fulfill the formal duties, even exceeding the legal requirements. They showed their registered bylaws allow them to carry out charitable activities and studies of Unificationist teaching and the Justice Department had refused to re-register their new bylaws However, neither the Prosecutor nor the Justice Department changed its claims. At the same time the Justice Department came up with a new argument: It was not aware what kind of philosophy the Unification Principle (the Unification Church teaching) is, even though it had been presented to the Justice Department in 1991 when registering CARP of St. Petersburg. The Judge declined all the questions of the CARP lawyers addressed to the Prosecutor and the Justice Department.

The false claims were not the worst for the students. It was the obstacle to their active work. For several years they have been conducting charity projects for children in orphanages and were committed to taking care of dozens of children.

The court minutes go like this, for example: "If the study of the Unification philosophy is your goal, then why did you stop it? Does it mean that your organization does not exist anymore?" asks the Prosecutor.

"Your honor," responds the student, "in 1996 the Justice Department considered it an illegal activity. We stopped it until the court considers our complaint about the Justice Department's warning of this and decides if it is legal or not. For now we are focusing our efforts on charity projects, hoping to practice the principles laid down in our bylaws."

"Well," concludes the Prosecutor, "if you do not study the Principle, then you do not need your organization."

One can see the attitude of the Judge just by her refusal to accept into evidence materials and photos confirming the charitable actions of CARP.

Next the questioning of the witnesses began. These are members of an anti-cult group, invited by the Prosecutor, who go from one court to another testifying about the horrors of brainwashing. CARP protested that the witnesses are juridically interested in the solution of the Prosecutor's case and requested the court to dismiss the witnesses. That was rejected

Second Week

The second week of the court hearing began on the 28th of September and was dedicated to questioning the anti-cult activists, who are witnesses in the court case, and their children, who are members of CARP. The court also studied the minutes of the members' meetings and membership forms produced by CARP which the Prosecutor alleged that CARP does not have.

The chairperson of the Inter-regional Committee for Salvation from Totalitarian Sects, and two deputies testified about the horrors of "totalitarian sects" and the harm inflicted to the mental health of their children who "got involved in CARP by fraud." The activists appealed to the judges' patriotism and stressed that their children rejected traditional values, they became religious, quit their jobs and left home. They stated that CARP and the Unification Church were the same entity, which "brainwashes children and submits them to the will of foreigners -- the leaders of the sect."

The judge either dismissed the questions of CARP's lawyers to the anti-cult activists or answered these questions herself. The judge refused to accept as evidence the results of the court-psychiatric expert examination of the CARP members. According to its results, the children of the witnesses were found to be totally sane. At the same time the court accepted as evidence a letter of Father Oleg Stenyaev, a priest of the Russian Orthodox Church and the head of the Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Non-Traditional Religions, and various other negative evaluations of the teachings of the Unification Church.

Both the Prosecutor and the Justice Department representative actively supported the activists. Moreover, the Justice Department officially stated that in 1991 when registering CARP, they had no idea about its ideology. After a book of Unification Church teachings was presented to the court, the Justice Department said that they are not familiar with it. They could not answer the question about how it was possible then to register an organization that according to its bylaws studied this very book.

Because the anti-cult activists insisted that this literature was harmful, CARP requested the court to accept as evidence a resolution of criminology experts who found no such harm in the literature of CARP. The court refused.

After this the children of the anti-cult activists were questioned. They clarified that they had voluntarily joined and after that left the student association. They explained that when they were members of CARP, they attended its meetings, visited orphanages and took part in other charitable programs, and studied the teachings of the Unification Church. All this was in accordance with the bylaws of CARP. Their testimonies did not help the Prosecutor dissolve CARP and the judge began asking them why they changed their system of values. One witness testified that the Prosecutor calls her mother every day and discusses the development of this court case. The judge interfered and said that these calls have to do with informing the witness about the time of their interrogation. However, the witness pointed out that this would not have taken 30 to 40 minutes every day, as the conversations actually took. She also stated that the funding for the Committee for Salvation from Totalitarian Sects, according to her mother comes from the City Hall of St. Petersburg. Her testimony was stopped at that point.

The defendant expressed the opinion that the court is biased, referring to the judge's negative statements toward the Unification Church, the judge's juridical assistance to the plaintiff and the Justice Department's inability to answer the defendantís questions. As a result, CARP demanded that the judge be dismissed. The court refused.

Nevertheless, the next day the judge gave the Prosecutor two months, requiring the Prosecutor to specify the claims of the dissolution suit and postponed the case until Nov. 30.

Let us conclude. After two weeks of the court hearing, submission of all the evidence and interrogation of all the witnesses invited by the Prosecutor, no basis for the dissolution of CARP were established. The Prosecutor received an extension and an opportunity to reformulate the dissolution claim. CARP was obliged by the court to submit further documents, which are not required by any law. Among those are the registration documents of the Unification Church in Russia and the USA, the list of missionaries of the Unification Church in St. Petersburg, the list of members of St. Petersburg CARP throughout the history of its existence, including information about their addresses, jobs and occupations. It appears that the Prosecutor will continue looking for compromising material against CARP. While the Prosecutor demanded the dissolution of CARP in March 1996 they have not provided proof by September 1998, and need still more time to prepare.

Your prayers for victory over this unjust challenge will be most appreciated,

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