7 Mar 2019 19:24

Krasnodar Territorial Court upholds deportation of 2 U.S. religious missionaries from Russia

KRASNODAR. March 7 (Interfax) - The Krasnodar Territorial Court ruled on Thursday to decline appeals against a Novorossiysk court judgment ordering that two U.S. citizens be fined and deported from Russia for violating border regulations.

The Krasnodar Territorial Court heard appeals against rulings by Novorossiysk's Primorsky District Court finding Kole Brodowski and David Udo guilty of violating border regulations.

The foreigners are currently being held at a detention facility for individuals subject to administrative arrest in the town of Gulkevichi, the Krasnodar territory.

It had been reported earlier that two U.S. citizens introducing themselves as volunteers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) had been detained in Russia.

The case against the defendants indicated that, while staying in Novorossiysk, they were engaged in teaching activities, which did not correspond to the declared objective of their trip to Russia.

Sergei Gliznutsa, the lawyer for the Americans, said his clients had come to Russia as volunteer missionaries and took part in official events of the religious organization Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"The charter of the religious organization registered by the Russian Justice Ministry envisions the arrangement of various cultural and educational events, including conversations and discussions with foreign citizens in a foreign language," Gliznutsa said.

The lawyer also noted that the police concluded that the U.S. citizens were engaged in teaching activities based on a five-minute conversation in the English language.

"No fact of payment for services was determined, there were no exercises or textbooks at the meeting, and the participants didn't have notebooks and didn't keep any records," Gliznutsa said at the hearing of Brodowski's case.

The defense asked the territorial court to reverse the lower court's ruling as one based on the wrong interpretation of circumstances.

He also asked the court to free the foreigners and not apply as severe a sanction to them as administrative deportation.

"These individuals have been isolated from the public, but this is the first time they have been held accountable. The law envisions a punishment without deportation. The religious organization can buy tickets for them, and then they will leave the country on their own," he said.

Yury Kozhokin, a representative of the central organization called Religious Association of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who was present at the territorial court hearing, told journalists he was permanently in touch with the Americans and had not received any complaints from them regarding the conditions in which they are held.

"The conditions are basically good. There have been no complaints. The facility resembles a dormitory with rooms for ten people. They sleep on bunk beds and have three meals a day," Kozhokin said.

Lawyer Gliznutsa said nobody was aware when exactly the ruling on the deportation of the foreigners would be enforced.

The Russian visas of the U.S. citizens expire on March 28 and May 19, 2019.

It had been reported earlier that the foreigners said at a court hearing in Novorossiysk that they had come to Russia as volunteers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and did not have a special education to work as teachers. However, a number of witnesses denied their testimony.