Jehovah's Witnesses' center resists attack



The centralized religious organization "Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia" received an official warning, signed on 2 March by a deputy of the prosecutor general of the Russian federation. Viktor Grin characterized the activity of Jehovah's Witnesses (JW) as "extremist" and he prescribed the elimination of all "violations" within a two-month period. Otherwise the center is subject to liquidation, the press service of the organization reports.


In the opinion of the leadership of Russian JW, inclusion of a number of their publications in the Federal List of Extremist Materials (FLEM) is a judicial mistake, which sooner or later will be corrected by established procedures. Law enforcement agencies have vigorously made use of falsified evidence (planted materials from the FLEM, testimony of false witnesses) in order to fine believers. Prosecutor's offices have made use of assessed fines as a preliminary basis for liquidation of local religious organizations of JW, and the liquidation of a local religious organization, in turn, may serve, according to the text of the prosecutor general's warning, as the basis for liquidation of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia and its inclusion on the list of extremist organizations.


"What is most horrible is that after the liquidation of a local religious organization, believers are threatened with criminal prosecution simply for reading the Bible," Vasily Kalin, the head of the Administrative Center of JW in Russia, says. "This was shown by the case of the 16 Taganrog Jehovah's Witnesses. For several years the prosecutor's office tried to achieve their conviction through the court. In the end, all 16 received big fines and four also received jail time. It was clear to everybody that the defendants were harmless people and what was happening in the court sessions reminded one of an exercise in repartee. However the sentence imposed—more than 5 years of incarceration, suspended—is no joke!"


In the course of an expert investigation by the Russian Ministry of Justice it was established that the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses does not pose any danger or threat for public welfare. This has been confirmed repeatedly by judicial decisions issued by the European Court for Human Rights. The word "Russia," which was incorporated in 1999 into the official name of the centralized religious organization of JW, is evidence in accordance with the law of the fact of the existence of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia for a period of more than 50 years.


"Senior officials who seek to limit freedom of religious confession for hundreds of thousands of profoundly believing citizens of Russia have been deceived. Jehovah's Witnesses are expressing a decisive protest against such actions by officials and they ask all right thinking people in Russia to prevent steps leading to mass repression on the basis of religious confession," the press service of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia notes on 12 April. (tr. by PDS, posted 12 April 2016)

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