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Russian court to resume trial of Jehovah's Witnesses leader

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A court in the Siberian town of Gorno-Altaisk will resume on Tuesday hearings in the trial against the leader of a local branch of Jehovah's Witnesses for circulating extremist materials, the court's spokesman said.

A court in the Siberian town of Gorno-Altaisk will resume on Tuesday hearings in the trial against the leader of a local branch of Jehovah's Witnesses for circulating extremist materials, the court's spokesman said.

Alexander Kalistratov, 34, has been accused of disseminating banned literature after he shared some of the group's publications with the residents of Gorno-Altaisk.

According to investigation, Kalistratov disseminated books, brochures and magazines, which allegedly "incited religious enmity and hatred," between October 2008 and December 2009.

The trial started in October 2010 with the testimony of witnesses on the side of the prosecution.

The latest court session on December 17 was dedicated to the analysis of 48 religious articles, seized during the investigation, with the help of experts in linguists, philosophy and religious studies.

Kalistratov, who faces up to two years in prison if convicted, earlier called charges against him "absurd."

"I am baffled [with charges]. Judging by accusations, I have forgotten about Christian principles, I hate people and want to incite hatred among people. But it is contrary to my Christian beliefs based on love to one's neighbor," Kalistratov told RIA Novosti.

The Jehovah's Witnesses, which has some seven million followers worldwide and over 200,000 in Russia, have already been banned in a number of Russian regions and in some former Soviet republics.

In June similar charges were laid against the group in the southwestern Siberian city of Omsk.

Late last year the Russian Supreme Court's judicial chamber for civil cases upheld a regional court ruling to ban the organization's branch in the southern Russian city of Taganrog.

The Jehovah's Witnesses branch in the Russian capital was dissolved by district court ruling in 2004, but the European Court of Human Rights declared the decision illegal last June.

 

NOVOSIBIRSK, January 18 (RIA Novosti)

 

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