Jehovah’s Witnesses had reported the woman for criticizing them in the media. The judge dismissed the charges.
Originally published in Tages Anzeiger on July 9, 2019.
On Tuesday, the district court of Zurich acquitted a former employee of the cult advisory board Infosekta of allegations of multiple counts of defamation. It appears they were made by the Jehovah’s Witnesses over critical statements in the media.
In fact, the defendant had made several defamatory remarks, said the only judge during her oral verdict. But she did not agree that the statements were automatically punishable. For her statements, she had told the truth or provided proof in good faith.
The cult advisory board has a public mission and receives public money. It is widely recognized as such. Its task is to inform society about Jehovah’s Witnesses and various other groups. This was done by the accused. It was not her primary goal to make Jehovah’s Witnesses look evil.
The court awarded the defendant compensation for a personal inconvenience totaling almost 25,000 Swiss francs ($25,000). The verdict is not yet legally binding. It can be referred to the High Court. The prosecution had demanded a conditional fine. The Jehovah’s Witnesses as a private applicant had not made any civil claims.
The Allegations related to statements made by the 48-year-old Infosekta employee in the summer of 2015 in an interview with Tages Anzeiger and in a media release posted on the internet. Among other things, she described the community as a “highly problematic group” with inhumane behavior.
While the faith group fights for its religious freedom, it does not grant it to its members. The group is closed to the outside world and has rules that promote the risk of sexual abuse. The refusal of blood transfusions endangers human lives.
A Matter of Perception
Some of the criticisms listed are a matter of perception, the judge said. The Infosekta employee’s statements were “based on all tangible documents”, including original documents of Jehovah’s Witnesses. But also hundreds of reports from former members were taken into account.