DEBATES OF THE PARTIES IN THE CASE FOR "LIQUIDATION" OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES UNDERWAY IN RUSSIAN SUPREME COURT
Portal-Credo.Ru, 20 April 2017
Judicial proceedings in the lawsuit of the Russian Ministry of Justice for the liquidation of all 396 religious organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, for finding them to be extremist, and for banning their activity and confiscating their property was resumed on 20 April in the Supreme Court of the RF. As a Portal-Credo.Ru correspondent reports, the trial has moved into the final stage; at the present time debates of the parties are proceeding in the courtroom.
The session began with the denial by Judge Ivanenko of a JW petition to add to the materials of the case a statement of the European Union on the matter of persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia
In his speech during debates, the lawyer for the Ministry of Justice placed stress on the fact that from the very name of the Administrative Center (a centralized organization) of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia follows its leadership role with respect to the local JW organizations, and also on the "indicators of extremism" in the activity of these organizations. The plaintiff includes in such indicators the importation over the course of 25 years into the RF of literature that subsequently was ruled to be "extremist," writing the word itself "extremist" in quotation marks, and statements by JW about plants on them of literature, which supposedly give evidence that the believers "have not repented" of their "extremist activity."
JW attorney Omelchenko, in his speech, called attention to the fact that the Supreme Court of Russia has several time pointed out that only real actions, which aim for the violent change of the foundations of the constitutional structure, may be ruled to be extremist, and not such incidents as the justice ministry enumerates. In the lawyer's opinion, the actions of the Ministry of Justice have all the signs of political repressions, which the Jehovah's Witnesses already were subjected to during soviet times.
The attorney Zhenkov recalled that such a measure as the complete confiscation of all church buildings of a whole confession was undertaken a single time in all the history of Russia—in 1918. "In this courtroom," the attorney said, "there is present a person who was born in prison. Because his mama, five months pregnant, was sentenced as an enemy of the people to eight years in prison merely because she was a Jehovah's Witness. She gave birth in prison, and for two years the baby lived in the prison's children's home. His father could not take him, because he had been exiled to Siberia. In 1991 the state acknowledged the mother as a victim of political repressions, apologized to her, and allocated a pension. And now here in the court, this man, born in prison, came up to me and asked: 'Does the Ministry of Justice really want to repeat this horrible history?' And I did not know what to answer. And even now I do not know what motivates the representatives of the Ministry of Justice and those who are directing this trial."
In his opinion, if the court "liquidates" the JW organization, then the Russian federation "will successfully acquire for itself" 170 thousand prisoners of conscience and the corresponding reputation.
At the present time, Jehovah's Witness lawyer Toporov is speaking in the debates. (tr. by PDS, posted 20 April 2017)
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