Unification News for December 1998

Court Case Against CARP Dismissed in St. Petersburg

by Konstantin Krylov, Moscow

On the 19th of November, 1998 the Dzerzhinsky Federal Court of St. Petersburg resumed the first stage hearing of the civil case initiated by the Interregional Committee for Salvation from Totalitarian Sects against the Collegiate Association for the Research of the Principle (CARP, a Unification Church affiliated organization) with the aim of liquidating this organization and receiving compensation for alleged moral distress.

The suit was submitted to the Court in 1995. At that time CARP's lawyers pointed out to the court that a public organization has no right to attempt in a court of law to liquidate another public organization. This can only be done either by the prosecutor or the Department of Justice as the registering organ. Claims for compensation for moral distress are acceptable only from the individuals who experienced moral damage and never from organizations. It means that when he accepted the suit, the judge violated the Law. Nevertheless, for more than three years the Court conducted hearings of the case. This case was specifically referred to as proof of the malevolence of the Unification Church in various official documents such as the Analytical Newsletter of the Federal Duma, informative materials of the Ministry of Health and guidelines issued by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. This investigation by the Dzerzhinsky Court was also given as a reason for refusing to register a branch of the Unification Church in St. Petersburg.

However, at no time during the hearings did the plaintiff provide any proof of illegal activities by this youth organization. On the contrary, a psychiatric examination of members of CARP proved their sanity. The criminologists who examined the doctrinal literature of the Unification Church found nothing of a criminal nature either in books by Rev. Moon, or in brochures and other literature. It became obvious to the court that the claims of the Interregional Committee for Salvation from Totalitarian Sects should be dismissed. And so it was reminded about the procedural norms regulating the processing of lawsuits submitted by an improper plaintiff. According to Art.129-1 of the Civil Process Codex, the judge should refuse to accept such a suit. If the suit was accepted by mistake, then the process is to be stopped on discovering the mistake.

Another factor that should have been helpful in discovering such a "mistake" were the documents found by CARP of some of the sources of finance of the so-called public committee. As soon as the suit was accepted by the Court, the Interregional Committee started to receive financial support straight from the St. Petersburg City Budget. Its financing was fixed as a separate item in the city's expenditures. Thus the fight of Mrs. N. Russkikh and Mr. V. Babkin for " salvation from totalitarian sects" was directly paid from the city budget not counting the support received from the Prosecutor and the Justice Department.

It also became clear that the anti-cult activists constantly avoided actually participating in the court hearings under various pretexts. First they asked for more time to clearly specify their claims, although this was never done. In 1996 they solicited the court to conduct a psychiatric examination of members of CARP and postponed further hearings until the result was available. In their Statement No. 10253/20 the experts explained why the examination took so long: the third party in the court process and representative of the Interregional Committee, Mrs. N. Russkikh, did not provide the necessary material for a long time (13 January, 97 - 17 June, 97), and later "escaped from participating in the expert's work." The length of the court's psychiatric examination was also due to the Interregional Committee's failure to make the payments necessary for the expert examination. By law it is the soliciting party that should pay and even though the Committee produced in court letters of guaranteeing payment, the payments were not made. In the end the psychiatric examination was performed at the expense of the State. On the 19th of June, 1998 the plaintiffs made a statement in the court that as their lawyer was absent at the hearing they could not properly defend their supposedly violated rights. CARP then proved that the contract between the Interregional Committee and its lawyers had been discontinued since summer 1997. With the support of the court, the Committee for the Salvation from Totalitarian Sects used various pretexts to postpone the hearing. The reason was simple. The State financing might end.

In this way the Court had more than enough evidence of the absurdity of the suit. On the 19th of November 1998, CARP produced documentary evidence showing that the so-called "distress" of the parents who were demanding the forced psychiatric hospitalization of their mentally healthy adult children, "brainwashed" by the Unification Church, was being financed out of the budget of the city of St. Petersburg, a subject of the Russian Federation. Then, in order to save the Committee from losing to CARP, the Court used a technical device to declare that the case should not even have been started. Thus the case was dismissed as having been improperly brought.

Although the three year long court case was closed by the court, it was not highlighted by the State or the mass media. Nor has CARP received any compensation for its substantial legal expenses. Instead, the members of the anti-cult committee are still having their say as witnesses in the Prosecutor's case. He is demanding the liquidation of CARP although in fact his case has also been postponed for an indefinite period. Early in October 1998, the City Court of St. Petersburg almost heard the whole case but postponed it because the Prosecutor was not properly prepared. So the court suggested to the Prosecutor that he prepare and produce evidence. On the 30th of November 1998, the case was taken off the Court schedule for no apparent reason and is now postponed indefinitely.

Thus the legal controversy between the State represented by the Prosecutor, the Justice Department, the Committee for the Salvation from Totalitarian Sects, and a student organization sharing the doctrine of the Unification Church continues. It would be naive for Russia to expect that law will triumph. Even if one is critical of the religious doctrines and the practices of the Unification Church, it is hard not to see which forces are discriminating against the freedom of conscience. The fighters for authoritarian values and nationalism are supported by the State which has already abandoned its declared liberal- democratic principles. Xenophobia and religious intolerance prepare the way for totalitarianism.

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