Jehovah's Witnesses of Serov lose appeal in court


RIA Novosti, 22 August 2016


The Sverdlovsk provincial court upheld the decision of the Serov city court finding a brochure of the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses to be extremist material, the provincial court reported on Monday.


"The Sverdlovsk provincial court dismissed without consideration the appeals of persons who filed them, inasmuch as the rights and obligations of the latter were not affected by the decision of the court," the report says.


According to information of the court, in January 2015 representatives of the Jehovah's Witnesses organization in Serov distributed printed religious productions in one of the local shopping centers. The contents of the 16-page brochure titled "How did life appear?" caught the attention of the city prosecutor's office. The book was sent for several expert analyses which established that the publication contains statements intended to inflame hatred and hostility toward other religions.


On the basis of the conclusion of experts, the Serov city prosecutor filed in court a petition to find the brochure "How did life appear?" extremist material. During the judicial proceedings a comprehensive judicial religious studies psycho-linguistic expert analysis was ordered and arguments of specialists—philologists, religious studies scholars, philosophers, and psychologists—were heard, who agreed in the opinion that "the contents of the literature points to the exclusivity and superiority of the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses over other religions," the court specified. Also the report notes that in it the use of violence toward representatives of another faith is justified.


The Serov city court ruled the brochure to be extremist materials and issued a decision for the forfeiture of this material. However the respondents did not agree and they filed an appeal. The attorney for the members of the Jehovah's Witnesses association tried to persuade the court that forfeiture of the printed productions is a violation of the civil rights of members of a religious society to ownership of the brochures as property. He also petitioned to prohibit the Russian Ministry of Justice from publishing a list of extremist materials containing the aforesaid publication, the court reports.


Representatives of the Jehovah's Witnesses regularly have problems with the law in Russia. This year a court liquidated for extremism organizations in Belgorod and Stary Oskol, and in 2015, in Obninsk, Kaluga province.


In 2014, the Supreme Court of the RF ruled the website and three books of the Witnesses to be extremist. Also a Kurgan court ruled another several brochures of the Witnesses to be extremist. In late December 2013 there was a report about holding the leaders of the Tobolsk group of this organization criminally responsible, who were accused of extremism and forbidding blood transfusion, because of which one of the devotees nearly died.


In 2004 a court in Moscow dispersed the congregation of Witnesses and forbade its activity. The congregation was found guilty specifically of enticing children, encouraging believers to break up their families, and encouraging suicide and refusal of medical help. In 2010 the European Court for Human Rights ruled this court's decision illegal and required Russia to pay the victims 70 thousand Euros. (tr. by PDS, posted 23 August 2016)

Background articles:
More Jehovah's Witnesses' materials added to extremist list
June 14, 2016
National Jehovah's Witnesses center defends member
May 27, 2016

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