Jehovah's Witnesses in Jewish autonomous region threatened


SOVA Center for News and Analysis, 7 September 2016


The Birobidzhan congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses may be ruled to be an extremist organization.


On 7 September 2016, the chief directorate of the Russian Ministry of Justice for Khabarovsk territory and the Jewish autonomous province reported that it had filed in court a declaration concerning finding the local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses in Birobidzhan to be extremist and liquidating it. The activity of congregation has been suspended from 5 September until consideration of the lawsuit by the court.


The directorate reports that it requests the liquidation of the Jehovah's Witnesses organization because in the course of its unscheduled on-site inspection, conducted from 8 August to 2 September 2016, it discovered violation of part 1 of article 13 of the law "On combating extremist activity," which prohibits the distribution of extremist materials.


Earlier in 2016, the leader of the Jehovah's Witnesses congregation was fined 3,000 rubles on the basis of article 20.29 of the Code on Administrative Violations of Law (mass distribution of extremist materials) after ten forbidden publication were discovered in the premises of the organization. Believers maintained that the literature had been planted. In 2015 the head of the congregation also was fined on the basis of article 20.29 of the Code on Administrative Violations of Law. In 2014 and 2015 the prosecutor's office issued to the Birobidzhan Jehovah's Witnesses warnings about the impermissibility of extremist activity.


Previously in Russia, organizations of Jehovah's witnesses have been ruled to be extremist in Taganrog, Samara, Abinsk of Krasnodar territory, Belgorod, Stary Oskol, and Elist (while in Taganrog 16 of its members were convicted of continuing the activity of the congregation). In addition, a provincial court issued a decision for the liquidation of the Jehovah's Witnesses congregation in Orel. The prosecutor's office in Cherkessk sought the liquidation of the local organization in 2015. The attempt to close the Jehovah's Witnesses congregation ended unsuccessfully for the prosecutor's office in Gorno-Altaisk and an Arkhangelsk provincial court also refused to liquidate the local congregation and the decision to liquidate the Tiumen organization of Jehovah's Witnesses was set aside by the Supreme Court. The first to be liquidated was the Moscow congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses in 2004, while the trial was begun back before the adoption of the law "On combating extremist activity." The congregation managed to register itself again only in 2015.


We view attempts to liquidate Jehovah's Witnesses organizations for extremism, prosecution of members of their congregations, and prohibition of their texts to be religious discrimination. (tr. by PDS, posted 26 September 2016)

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