Cult leader Grigory Grabovoi warned a judge on Tuesday that she had better free him or risk a catastrophic explosion at the Balakovskaya nuclear power plant.
The judge, Yelena Ivanova, was unfazed. After hearing opening statements by city prosecutors and Grabovoi’s lawyer, she adjourned the trial until April 23. She ordered that Grabovoi be kept in custody.
“I will be freed,” Grabovoi said in an interview during a recess, standing in a tiny cage in the stuffy courtroom.
Grabovoi, 43, is being tried on 11 counts of fraud connected to his promises to resurrect the dead, including children who died in the Beslan school hostage-taking in 2004.
Grabovoi has also sold information on how to treat terminal diseases and cure the incurable, prosecutors said. He charged about $1,500 for one-on-one meetings and $35 per person for group meetings.
Around 30 people, including journalists and supporters, filled the Tagansky District Court by the time Grabovoi was led in handcuffs to the metal defendants’ cage.
Once the police officers removed his handcuffs and he entered the cage, Grabovoi shot a glance at his common-law wife, Yelena Yegereva, who had taken a front-row seat for the opening of the trial. They exchanged smiles.
About 100 other people, mostly members of the Grabovoi’s cult and their acquaintances, were made to wait outside.
Judge Ivanova then proceeded to read out the charges against him.
Grabovoi’s lawyer Yevgeny Tokayev complained that the negative media attention surrounding his client had impaired Ivanova’s ability to judge fairly. Ivanova dismissed the complaint.
Grabovoi said he should be released to prevent future terrorist attacks and an explosion, which he predicted would hit the Balakovskaya plant in the Saratov region.
He added: “In the absence of evidence against me, it is possible that there is the influence of a third party, of other forces.” He did not elaborate.
During the recess, Grabovoi said he had faith in the court system. “I expect to be completely acquitted, so I am in a good mood,” he said.
Ivanova adjourned the trial until April 23, granting a request by Grabovoi that the proceedings be postponed until his preferred lawyer, Vyacheslav Makarov, recovered from an illness.
As a shackled Grabovoi was frog-marched out of the courtroom, he planted a kiss on his wife’s cheek.
“He is openly practicing his beliefs,” she said later. “That is not a crime.”
Also in the courtroom Tuesday was Vladimir Varsovin, a Komsomolskaya Pravda journalist who paid 39,100 rubles to Grabovoi in what he called a sting operation. With help from colleagues, Varsovin created a portrait of a nonexistent person that he told Grabovoi was his dead brother in September 2005.
After accepting the money, “Grabovoi told me my brother had been resurrected and is living in St. Petersburg,” Varsovin said Tuesday.
Prosecutors referred all questions to their spokespeople at the City Prosecutor’s Office. No one could be reached for comment there Tuesday.
Outside the court, Grabovoi’s lawyer said a negative media campaign against his client was the reason for the delay of the trial.
Grabovoi’s followers insist that no one was ever promised resurrection and that waking the dead is only possible if a student is completely immersed in his leader’s teachings.
Grabovoi claims to have predicted the Beslan attack as well as the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. “Scientists have proved that,” said Dastan Satayev, 24, an engineering student who came to the court to support Grabovoi.
Ella Kesayeva, who heads the Voice of Beslan support group, was pleased that Grabovoi might face prison time. “Despite the fact that he never took any money from the women of Beslan, he inflicted moral harm on them by inculcating his delusional ideas,” she said by telephone.
Grabovoi also offered to resurrect those who died in Moscow’s Dubrovka theater hostage-taking in 2002.
His web site makes no mention of any successful Dubrovka resurrections, but it does include a statement by Grabovoi saying that if he became president in 2008, his first decree would be to ban death.
If convicted, Grabovoi faces up to 10 years in prison and a 1 million ruble fine.
Staff Writer Svetlana Osadchuk contributed to this report.