ACTIVITY OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES BANNED IN BIROBIDZHAN FOR EXTREMISM
RIA Novosti, 12 October 2016
A court of the Jewish Autonomous Region issued a decision prohibiting activity of the religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses in Birobidzhan because of its distribution of extremist literature, the court's website reports.
It is noted that the chief directorate of the Russian Ministry of Justice for Khabarovsk territory and the Jewish Autonomous Region filed an administrative lawsuit in the court of the Jewish Autonomous Region for ruling the local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses in Birobidzhan to be extremist. According to information from the Ministry of Justice, instances of possession and distribution of extremist materials in 2015 and 2016 have been established. Leaders of the organization had been held administratively accountable and the local religious organization had been issued a warning about the impermissibility of conducting extremist activity.
A representative of the respondent, the chairman of the committee of the local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses in Birobidzhan, did not concede the requirements of the suit. He said that the printed materials included in the Federal List of Extremist Materials that were discovered did not belong to the organization.
"After hearing the explanations of the sides, questioning the witnesses, and examining the evidence presented, the court granted the administrative petition. According to the decision of the court, the local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses in Birobidzhan is found to be extremist and not in compliance with the requirements of the federal law 'On freedom of conscience and religious associations,' and its activity is prohibited on the territory of the RF, it is liquidated, and it is removed from the Uniform State Register of Legal Entities," the court stated.
It is to be noted that such a decision does not violate the rights of every one of the members of the local religious organization to profess the religion he chooses and to perform independent religious worship that is not associated with the distribution of religious literature of extremist contents.
The court noted that the decision may be appealed to the Supreme Court of the Russian federation. (tr. by PDS, posted 16 October 2016)
JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES' ACTIVITY BANNED IN BIROBIDZHAN
by Dmitry Shcherbatov
Kommersant, 12 October 2016
The local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses in Birobidzhan was found by a court of the Jewish Autonomous District to be extremist, the provincial court reported on Wednesday. The chief directorate of the Ministry of Justice for Khabarovsk territory and the Jewish Autonomous District filed a lawsuit for prohibiting the activity of the local religious organization, liquidating it, and removing it from the Uniform State Register of Legal Entities on 7 September, according to the file of judicial cases. As the territorial directorate of the Ministry of Justice explained to Kommersant, the ministry has conducted an unscheduled field inspection of the local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses since 8 August on the basis of information that had been received about the organization's violation of part 1 of article 13 of the federal law "On combating extremist activity" (which prohibits storage for purposes of mass distribution of literature that has been included in the Federal List of Extremist Materials). "In the course of the inspection it was revealed that in 2015-2016 the legislation was actually violated," the directorate reported.
On the basis of the results of the inspection, the chief directorate of the Ministry of Justice suspended the activity of the local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses in Birobidzhan as of 5 September and filed suit in court. The Jewish Autonomous District court's report specified that the inspection by the chief directorate of the Ministry of Justice revealed "instances of repeated storage of extremist materials for purposes of mass distribution by the local religious organization." In particular, forbidden literature was stored "in Birobidzhan in premises where believers' meetings were conducted," and it was distributed in the Lenin district of the Jewish Autonomous District. Just what kind of materials are referred to was not specified in court.
The Birobidzhan local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses had previously had frequent problems because of the distributed materials. Thus in 2013 the city prosecutor's office, on the basis of information from the regional FSB directorate, established that at the place where the local religious organization conducted meetings the brochure "Good news from God" was distributed. Its contents were considered by the ministry to be "aimed at the formation of negative notions about other forms of religion and at proclaiming the superiority of adherents and preachers of the Jehovah's Witnesses." In June 2014, the prosecutor's office again discovered an incident of distribution of the brochure, which by that time had been ruled to be extremist by a decision of the Lenin district court of Vladimir. The local religious organization was issued a warning about the impermissibility of violation of federal legislation.
According to the materials of the Birobidzhan district court, in March 2016 the chairman of the committee of the local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses in Birobidzhan, Alexander Shinder, was fined 3,000 rubles on the basis of article 20.29 of the Code of Administrative Violations of Law of the RF (production and distribution of extremist materials). In January 2016, police discovered several forbidden books in a pink package under a table during a search of the premises where adherents of the organization assembled. Alexander Shinder did not admit his guilt, explaining that the local religious organization does not direct the activity of the "Northern," "Western," and "Southern" religious groups, which also conducted worship services. He said that he himself had not brought into the hall any literature that is forbidden to possess, and he never stored it there.
In the trial of the lawsuit of the chief directorate of the Ministry of Justice against the local religious organization, Mr. Shinder explained that the forbidden printed materials that were discovered did not belong to the organization. But the court granted the petitions of the plaintiff, noting separately that "such a decision does not violate the right of each of the members of the local religious organization to profess the religion of their choice and to perform independent acts of religious worship that have nothing to do with distribution of religious literature of extremist contents or the conduct of public actions that violate the rights of other persons who do not profess said belief." As the chief directorate of the Ministry of Justice for Khabarovsk territory and the Jewish Autonomous District explained to Kommersant, the decision took effect only for the termination of the activity of the religious organization. The defendant may challenge its other points (regarding finding the organization extremist and its liquidation and removal from the Uniform State Register of Legal Entities) in the Supreme Court. The local religious organization refused to comment for Kommersant about the decision of the court by telephone and it promised to communicate by email. (tr. by PDS, posted 19 October 2016)
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