The judge had scheduled to announce the verdict on July 28, 2014, but he adjourned to the following day. On July 29, the judge read the 100-page decision all day and continued on the morning of July 30.
On July 30, 2014, the Taganrog City Court convicted and sentenced 7 of the 16 Witnesses in Taganrog for attending and organizing their peaceful religious meetings. They were prosecuted merely for carrying out the same religious activity that Jehovah’s Witnesses perform around the world. This verdict sets a dangerous precedent in restricting religious freedom for Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout Russia.
Victor Zhenkov, one of the attorneys in the case, stated: “I fear what the decision portends for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. Law enforcement authorities in Taganrog and throughout Russia can use this decision in a propaganda campaign to continue harassing and persecuting Jehovah’s Witnesses with the real threat of imprisonment merely for practicing their faith.”
(For related context check out:Today’s Date is July 10, 2014, correct??)
Are Judges judging justly?! (You judge?/You decide?)
The presiding judge of the Suwon District Court wept as she read the prison sentence for 21-year-old Chang-jo Im, a conscientious objector to military service. Although the judge had handed down verdicts that day in five other criminal cases without any signs of distress, the injustice of this case moved her to tears. Having no other option, she sentenced this young man, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, to 18 months’ imprisonment.
In his decision regarding one conscientious objector, Judge Young-sik Kim states: “The justices hardly believe that they are ‘punishing criminals’ when they deal with conscientious objectors.” The conflict he felt caused him to question the validity of the draft evasion statute as a sentencing guideline for conscientious objectors.
“The ultimate goal of protecting freedom of conscience by the Constitution as a fundamental right is to protect individuals’ conscience, which form the basis for human worth and dignity. . . . Though their decision to reject military service does not harmonize with the majority’s idea, it would be difficult to argue that their decision amounts to a serious antisocial or antinational crime that deserves strict sanction by directly invoking the criminal punishment.”–Judge Hye-won Lim, Suwon District Court, February 21, 2013, 2012Chogi2381.
“Deciding the relationship between oneself and others . . . [and] giving serious consideration to the ‘value of human existence’ is an integral process of forming one’s character. It also embraces the decision not to deprive anyone of his or her life, even under an armed conflict. If those [who have made] such decisions are forced to perform the military duty or compelled to take up arms and are invariably subjected to punishment if they refuse to perform such a duty, it would amount to denying their rights and their identity. Surely it violates human dignity.”–Judge Young-hoon Kang, Seoul North District Court, January 14, 2013, 2012Chogi1554.
“There is no sufficient reason to claim that national security will be severely endangered to an extent that it would be impossible to protect human dignity and [the] value of all citizens when a minority, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, . . . refuses to take up arms and perform military training. In fact, the defendant . . . has already refused to perform military duty despite punishment. If the claim [were] sufficiently grounded, national security and human dignity and the value of all citizens would already be in serious danger.”–Judge Seung-yeop Lee, Ulsan District Court, August 27, 2013, 2013Godan601.
Check out the Numbers: South Korea
Witnesses sentenced to prison each month for conscientious objection: 40-50
Witnesses now imprisoned for conscientious objection: 602
Total of Witnesses imprisoned for conscientious objection since 1950: 17,840