CARP Students Win Unexpected Legal Victory in Russia

by Jeff Tallakson <jgt@spb.cityline.ru>
Sunday 7 November 1999

The student organization "CARP" won a crucial court case in St. Petersburg, Russia on November 5, 1999. No one expected they would win.

The prosecutor wanted to close down ("liquidate") CARP for doing religious activities. (CARP stands for Collegiate Association for Research of Principles and is a student organization within the broad movement for social change founded by Rev Sun Myung Moon.) The students had been disputing these charges in a long series of court battles beginning in 1995. During the 4 years of trials CARP students made 3 formal requests to dismiss the judges for prejudice and violation of their rights under Russian law. Recently the Justice Department added their power to the prosecutor by filing a supplementary, nearly identical lawsuit. The students were fighting two lawsuits at once. (Actually they had 5 separate cases winding through the St. Petersburg city court system).

Unbelievably CARPís lawyers were banned from the final hearings. Next the students themselves were excluded (either because they were declared to be witnesses or because of their connection to Unification Church) and were not allowed to attend the final arguments delivered against them. However throughout the proceedings representatives of a hate group against new religious movements were accorded courtesy as observers. On the last day the chief judge yelled at and berated the 5 CARP witnesses for not being able to defend against the arguments they had not been allowed to hear the day before.

Three students and two of their parents conducted themselves with courage and dignity under grueling and humiliating questioning lasting up to 2 hours for each witness. In Russia the judge also questions witnesses in a prosecutorial manner. But it is not common for a judge to do this until 9:30 p.m. The panel of three women judges was so clearly prejudiced that the students were resigned that their only recourse was to appeal the violations of the law and their rights to the Supreme Court in Moscow.

On Friday, November 5, 1999, all gathered for the verdict. First the prosecutor had yet again the chance to summarize. There was no lawyer present for the defendants. The judges deliberated for two hours. All present knew the verdict before hand. The prosecutor and the representative of the Justice Department were relieved that after four years of litigating and persecuting, they finally had the liquidation of the student organization within their grasp. The representatives of the anti-cult hate groups were savoring their victory in advance. They were the ones who began the court cases; in misguided hysteria they brought the complaints and continual fervor to spur the prosecutors to harass the student movement to extinction even if the laws had to be broken Soviet-style to do it. The CARP leaders were already planning their final appeal and their press releases to human rights groups worldwide.

The only people who had not given into this fate were thousands of Unificationists through out Russia and the CIS who had united in heart dedicating special times to prayer, fasting and vigils. Their desperation arose out of their understanding that prosecutors throughout Russia had been anxiously awaiting this decision as the precedent to follow their own agendas to eliminate the ever expanding activities of the Unification Movement in the former Communist nations. If CARP students in St. Petersburg lost. Then all lost. The movement might be forced underground.

The judges filed back in. All stood for the reading. Chief Judge Svetlana Masolova read her verdict. "The two suits brought by the Justice Department and by the public prosecutor to liquidate CARP because CARP allegedly violated the laws of Russia and their own by-laws . . . are dismissed." The room was totally still. Everyone was stunned. The prosecuting attorneys, the enemies of CARP, and the three CARP leaders. People could not believe their ears. The Judge let loose a slim smile at the scene before her. Unification Church Public Relations director Kostya Krylov and CARP legal assistant Natasha Yankus looked at each other in bewildered amazement. The Judges exited the courtroom.

CARPís representative, Marisha Chernyh followed Judge Masolova into her chambers. "Excuse me, please. What is the meaning of the verdict?" Judge Masolova replied, "Oh I am sorry. Did I read in an incomprehensible manner?" Marisha: "No, your reading was fine, but I do not understand itís meaning for CARP? Another Judge spoke up, "They cannot understand their own happiness." Judge Masolova. "It means you won. CARP is not liquidated." The three raced to the phones to tell the world.

This is a great victory for freedom of conscience in the former Soviet Union. It is a great victory for the Russian nation. How terrible for the nation if Russia gives into the temptation to suppress forces for creative and democratic social change. In the true form of their 80 year-old founder, Rev Moon, CARP students valiantly fought through police harassment and slander, were repeatedly misunderstood and dishonored in the media, but persevering through personal crises and public humiliations, they loved more, not less. For Unificationists worldwide this is what is meant to be a "true parent" and in St. Petersburg CARP students emerged victorious and vindicated, like their model "True Parents ", Dr. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon.

When something unconventional happens, not expected by any rational person, then we may understand that something non-rational is happening, and it is called a miracle. CARP students felt deep humility before God as they could only understand that grace had descended upon the court room. Tears flowed of the kind that come after people endure together a long period of suffering and injustice, and at the final darkest moment . . receive victory.