ZAMOSKVORECHE COURT OF MOSCOW REFUSES TO CANCEL SUSPENSION OF ACTIVITY OF ADMINISTRATIVE CENTER OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES IN RUSSIA
Portal-Credo.Ru, 24 April 2017
The decision of the Russian Ministry of Justice regarding the suspension of the activity in Russia of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses (JW) is legal, the Zamoskovoreche court of Moscow ruled on 24 April. The judicial proceedings were conducted against the background of the decision of the Russian Supreme Court to ban the activity of the Administrative Center of JW, which has still not taken effect.
A former employee of the press service of the Administrative Center of JW in Russia, Ivan Belenko, told the website of Kavkazskii Uzel that the Zamoskvoreche district court denied the Administrative Center. "This trial became less relevant inasmuch as it challenged the act of suspension of the activity of our organization back before the issuance of the decision of the Russian Supreme Court. The results of the review of our lawsuit in the Zamoskvoreche court could hardly have an impact on anything," Ivan Belenko noted.
Ivan Belenko recalled that on 5 April, on the first day of hearing the administrative case of the lawsuit of the Ministry of Justice in the Russian Supreme Court, a lawyer for the Administrative Center filed a petition to postpone the hearing until the resolution of the lawsuit in the Zamoskvoreche district court. However the petition was denied. "The filing of the lawsuit and its consideration in the Zamoskvoreche court could have had an impact if the Russian Supreme Court could postpone the hearings," Ivan Belenko added.
"In all likelihood, the decision of the Supreme Court for liquidating the Administrative Center that was adopted earlier impacted the decision of the Zamoskvoreche district court. And this is evidence of a dangerous trend—following the Supreme Court, lower courts may take a course of subsequently denying Jehovah's Witnesses the protection of their constitutional rights," stated lawyer Anton Bogdanov, who represented the interests of the Administrative Center in the trial in the Zamoskvoreche district court.
"However the Administrative Center is continuing to appeal the justice ministry's order. Inasmuch as by this order, which still is in effect, organizations were caused substantial losses and also deprived of the right to freedom of religious confession," Anton Bogdanov added.
Bogdanov said that the decision of the Russian Supreme Court "has already led to consequences for the Jehovah's Witnesses. Law enforcement agencies are already making attempts to extend the action of the Supreme Court's decision for liquidation of a legal entity to simple believers, creating hindrances to their confessing their faith."
According to their organization's data, Jehovah's Witnesses are registered and conduct religious activity in 240 independent or partially independent countries of the world. The total number of Jehovah's Witnesses in the world is 8.3 million persons, including about 170 thousand in Russia. (tr. by PDS, posted 24 April 2017)
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