Jehovah's Witnesses sue Moscow prosecutor



On 1 June 2016 the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia sent to the Tver district court of the city of Moscow an administrative petition for finding the warning about the impermissibility of conducting extremist activity, issued by a deputy prosecutor general of Russia, to be illegal.


Although the warning, dated 2 March 2016, seems only to be a preventive measure, in reality it can have far-reaching consequences. Any new "instances" of extremist activity of the center discovered during the year after the issuance of the warning threaten the liquidation of the center and recognition of it as an extremist organization, which entails unpredictable consequences for the more than 175,000 Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia.


The center previously appealed the warning out of court. On 29 April 2016 an appeal was filed with the superior prosecutor, Russian Prosecutor General Yury Chaika. Inasmuch as no answer was received from him for a month, the administrative lawsuit was prepared for the court.


The Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, with all due respect, was not able to agree with the warning that was issued, since a careful reading of the document reveals colossal legal contradictions. Here is only one example.


As the basis for the warning, for example, it says: "88 informational materials published by the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses have been ruled to be extremist. They are all included in the Federal List of Extremist Materials [FLEM]." However, the initiator of the finding of these materials to be "extremist" was the prosecutor's office itself. While this esteemed agency never identified the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia as an interested party in those cases. As a result, believers learned about many judicial decisions after the fact, after the publications appeared on the FLEM. When the center petitioned for its inclusion in the case as an interested party, the prosecutor's office consistently objected, claiming that the interests of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia were in no way implicated (this organization is neither the author, publisher, or copyright holder of these materials). The same position was also taken by the Supreme Court of the RF. Therefore it is extremely surprising that now it is the Administrative Center that the office of the prosecutor general of the Russian federation, despite its own position, accuses of "extremism" on the basis of the fact that 88 Jehovah's Witnesses publications appear on the FLEM.


It is noteworthy that the decision to include publications of Jehovah's Witnesses in the FLEM at the present time is being appealed in the European Court for Human Rights. In its response to the ECHR, the government of the Russian federation admitted that the contested religious literature of Jehovah's Witnesses "does not contain open calls for violence or incitement to violence." Actually all accusations of extremist activity against Jehovah's Witnesses come down to the fact that their literature is included in the FLEM. And this, in its turn, was done on the basis of alleged hidden allusions to religious enmity. What kind of allusions are they talking about? Here is a revealing quotation from a book with children's bible stories and comments by an expert who found "extremism" in this quotation: "Pilate wants to release Jesus. But the enemies of Jesus insist that instead of him, another prisoner be released, the brigand Barabbas. It was almost noon. Pilate brings Jesus out to the crowd and says: 'Behold, here is your king.' But the priests shout: 'Away with him! Away! Kill him!' Then Pilate releases Barabbas and sends Jesus away to be killed." The expert's comment: "The priests are described as hypocritical, selfish, brutal, guilty of bloodshed, liars, spreading pagan notions, and conducting false, pagan rituals" (quoted from Conclusion of Experts of Commissioned Comprehensive Forensic Expert Analysis. Rostov-on-Don, 2009, page 81). As a result, the book was included in the FLEM at number 518, which, in turn, serves as the grounds for accusing believers of "extremist" activity. Believers hope that sooner or later all these judicial mistakes will be corrected.


Having set out these and numerous other arguments about the groundlessness of the warning that was issued, the Jehovah's Witnesses have requested the court to find it illegal.


With respect,

Press Service of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia

(tr. by PDS, posted 8 June 2016)

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