Believers versus liars
If he wants to substantiate his claim that Mr. Okhotin's trouble with the Russian authorities is a case of religious persecution, Mr Uzell should do better than read newspapers, and quote selectively from them. He might try interviewing Mr. Okhotin himself for the more than two hours I took in two separate conversations. Mr. Okhotin cannot provide evidence substantiating that his trouble with the Russian authorities has involved religious persecution, except for the fact that the Federal Security Service interviewed his lawyer. That's not enough. Nor can Mr. Okhotin answer such questions as why he was carrying $48,000 in cash, when he admits he had never done so before; and when he concedes that in the past transfers between his US-based group and its Russian contacts went by bank transfer. Mr. Okhotin is less than believable too when he fudges his answers to questions relating to what the money was for, and to whom he planned on distributing it. As to the charge of Russian corruption, Mr. Uzell, like Mr. Okhotin, appears to be unfamiliar with the Anglo-American jurisprudential doctrine of "clean hands". Roughly speaking, it means that if one is in commission of a crime, one cannot be believed when one accuses someone else of committing a crime. In Mr.Okhotin's case, he says he did not declare to the US authorities that he was taking $48,000 out of the US, and he does not claim that his organization did so either. He says he didn't know it was unlawful for him to exit with the money without declaring it. But he also told me that on his arrival, the Russian authorities asked him whether he had declared the money to the US authorities, and he says he told them he had not. Thus, the Russian authorities knew that Mr. Okhotin was in violation of US law when the slip-up occurred at Sheremetyevo. Maybe there has been a Russian attempt to extort a bribe, maybe not. But the one person who cannot substantiate that claim is Mr. Okhotin. Mr. Uzzell won't do either. Before he jumps to too many more unwarranted, legally feeble conclusions, Mr. Uzzell would do well to wait for the Russian legal process to reach its end, and issue a determination of whether Mr. Okhotin's action was a legal violation that should be tried in court; an administrative violation that should attract a fine; or the harmless mistake Mr. Okhotin claims. Finally, Mr. Uzzell distorts the section of my report regarding the doctrines of groups like Mr. Okhotin's. I asked Mr. Okhotin whether the funds he was carrying were raised by appeals that included any reference to Islam in Russia. His answer was that this was "probably not mentioned". Unconvincing. I asked Mr. Okhotin whether the money might be spent on activities relating to prosyletizing non-believers. He replied with a distinction between that and "bearing witness". Unconvincing again. Mr. Uzzell is right about just one thing. I have a visceral dislike, but of liars, not of fundamentalist believers. I'm not sure what, in the context of this case, the human rights of liars should be, but the righteous Mr. Uzzell isn't any help. And so let's see if he has better answers to the questions Mr. Okhotin couldn't or wouldn't give. And let's also see how the Russian investigation turns out.