JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES APPEAL COURT DECISION FOR FINE OF 20,000 RUBLES FOR HOLDING A MEETING
Chita.ru, 9 April 2016
A religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses will appeal the decision of a Shilka court that fined representatives of the organization in the district 20,000 rubles for conducting a meeting without signing a contract, Ivan Belenko, an employee of the press service of the organization, told a correspondent of the news agency Chita.ru.
The Shilka district prosecutor's office opened a case for administrative violation of law with the imposition of a fine of 20,000 rubles for conducting a meeting of the Jehovah's Witnesses organization in an auditorium without signing a rental contract and without permission from the authorities and police, having paid only 500 rubles, which in the opinion of the prosecutor's office bore an extremist character.
"Jehovah's Witnesses throughout the world conducted their only annual religious celebration—the Evening of Remembrance of the Death of Christ. With this goal, without violating any law, they gathered in a rented facility in Shilka. According to current Russian legislation, worship services are conducted without notification of authorities. This was a ruling of the Constitutional Court of the Russian federation of 5 December 2012. In addition, the court for human rights protected the Jehovah's Witnesses and their right freely to profess their religion without interference of Russian authorities. This conclusion may be applied also to this case, in light of its circumstances when the meeting in question was not a random event outside but a solemn religious ceremony conducted in an auditorium and it was not proven that this ceremony in any way violated public order or created a danger for it. The intervention of a substantial number of armed troops of OMON, whose goal was the disruption of the ceremony and subsequent detention of Witnesses, which lasted three hours, disproportional to the protection of public order even in the event that the authorities sincerely believed that the conduct of this event without prior notification was illegal," Belenko said.
In his opinion, the Jehovah's Witnesses have often become victims of disinformation: "Representatives of the government have often been misled as to who Jehovah's Witnesses are and what leads to violation of their rights. Jehovah's Witnesses are an international Christian brotherhood consisting of people of very diverse backgrounds who in their life are guided by principles set forth in an ancient sacred text—the Bible. The Bible guides all Christians to be law-abiding, honest, and respectable people." (tr. by PDS, posted 11 April 2016)
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