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Dr. Walter Sawatsky
Judge Vladimir Proshchenko
Taganskaya District Court
(Sent via Andrei Sakharov Museum and Public Center) email@example.com)
Dear Honorable Judge
It appears that you are carrying the responsibility, when issuing a ruling in a few days (March 28), on the trial of Yuri Samodurov,Ludmila Vasilovskaya and Anna Mikhalchuk for organizing an art exhibit, that could set a harmful precedent for the image of Russia in the world.
As scholar or religion specializing on Russia, I came to respect and value the courage and efforts of Dr.Andrei Sakharov, not a practising believer, on behalf of the rights of all persons. The museum in his memory seeks to continue his stance, namely to argue for the right to be heard, even when not sharing the views of the artist, the religious person, or the political activist. This is how many of us, hearing about the "Caution Religion" exhibit, are now becoming concerned that Russia not return to an earlier history of suppression. It is only through free exchange of views, through persistent dialogue in order to understand each other better, that the civil society all of us desire can develope.
I urge you therefore to dismiss the charges that appear to put art on trial and punishable by imprisonment. Much more I would encourage that acts of vandalism of public exhibitions be treated as civil offenses, and the perpetrators be treated with a restorative justice approach involving social service in order to re-educate them toward appropriate civil behavior.
Dr. Walter Sawatsky, Professor and Editor
3003 Benham Ave. Elkhart IN 46517 USA
cc: Ambassador Mr. Yuri Ushakov, Washington D.C.
March 25, 2005