PROVINCIAL COURT BEGINS CONSIDERATION OF CASE OF LOCAL JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES
by Evgeny Filippov
BelPressa [Belgorod], 2 February 2016
The prosecutor of Belgorod province filed in court a lawsuit for ruling the religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses of Belgorod extremist and for its liquidation and removal from the register of the Ministry of Justice.
Representatives of the prosecutor's office consider that it is necessary to liquidate the religious organization in accordance with article 9 of the federal law "On combating extremist activity."
During the session on 2 February, Judge Irina Naumova of the Belgorod provincial court received a number of petitions from participants in the trial.
"I ask the court to attach to the case religious brochures 'Sacred Scripture—New World Translation' on the last page of which there is a reference to an Internet resource that is prohibited in our country," the deputy chief of the department of the prosecutor's office of the province, Valentina Brigadina, petitioned. "In addition, it is necessary to attach the brochure 'How to recognize true Christians' as extremist material that is contained in the federal list of the Ministry of Justice. And also 'Armageddon. What is it? When will it come?' ,'Is Satan real?', and 'Music. How does it affect you?', as publications referring readers to an Internet link that is included in the list of extremist materials."
Representatives of the regional prosecutor's office also petitioned for summoning and questioning seven witnesses who, in their opinion, have suffered from the activity of Jehovah's Witnesses.
Lawyers for the defendant—the leader of the Belgorod religious organization, Alexander Shchendrygin—did not agree with the representatives of the plaintiff and asked the court not to attach to the case the religious brochures cited above, as they have nothing to do with the substance of the lawsuit.
"Several editions of the book 'Sacred Scripture—New World Translation' exist and I do not know just which the side of representatives of the provincial prosecutor's office is talking about," the attorney of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, Anton Omelchenko, noted. "So far as I know, there is no reference in the brochure to websites that are banned in Russia."
In addition the side of the defense filed more than ten petitions: from attachment of documents confirming the harmlessness for society of the religious teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses to summons to court of activists of the local religious congregation. Most of the petitions of the defendant were rejected by the court. The trial will continue on 3 February.
This is not the first instance when Belgorod Jehovists faced such accusations. In March 2015, by decision of the October district court of Belgorod, religious brochures "The Son wants to reveal the Father" and "Was life created?" were ruled to be extremist literature.
On 5 February, the Belgorod provincial court will begin consideration of a similar lawsuit, but against the religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses of Stary Oskol. (tr. by PDS, posted 2 February 2016)
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