Russian doomsday prophet too ill to attend court
PENZA, July 16 (RIA Novosti) – The Russian sect leader whose followers recently spent more than six months underground in central Russia will take no further part in court sessions to decide if he should be held criminally responsible for his actions, a Penza Region judicial spokesman said Wednesday.
Tuesday’s court session took place in the psychiatric ward where Pyotr Kuznetsov has been held since last year. Further sessions will take place in a more conventional court.
“The court announced a break to grant the accused medical assistance,” Natalya Bichenkova said. “Doctors carried out an examination of him and came to the conclusion that the further participation of Kuznetsov would be inadvisable due to his health.”
Although the sect leader has been declared legally insane, the court will attempt to determine his mental state at the time his followers first went underground. Two members of the sect perished in the dugout, one from malnutrition brought about during fasting, and another from cancer.
If the court finds that Kuznetsov was criminally responsible at the time of the group’s retreat from society, the case will be turned over to state prosecutors. If not, charges of “creating a violent organization” will be dropped, and the court will rule on what medical treatment Kuznetsov requires.
Despite one member of the sect claiming it was an offshoot of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the sect has generally been considered part of a wave of extreme Russian Orthodoxy in Russia and some former Soviet republics.
Adherents of this radical form of Christianity refuse to own passports, as they “contain the number of the Beast,” and will not handle money or consume products packaged in containers bearing “Satanic” barcodes.
In some news reports, Kuznetsov’s groups was referred to as “Heavenly Jerusalem.” However, “True Russian Orthodox Church” appears to be the small movement’s official name.
July 18, 2008 News Summary