High court renders significant decision against Jehovah's Witnesses


SOVA Center for News and Analysis, 9 February 2017


On 9 February 2017 the Supreme Court of the RF reviewed the appeal of the liquidation for extremism of the local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses in Birobidzhan and rejected it, leaving in force the decision of the court of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast of 3 October 2016.


We recall that in the summer of 2015, the district court fined the head of the congregation 4,000 rubles on the basis of article 20.29 of the Code of Administrative Violations of Law (possession of extremist materials for the purposes of their mass distribution). At the time the prosecutor's office issued to the religious organization a warning about the impermissibility of repeat violations of the legislation in the course of 12 months. The reason was that on 11 February 2015, during a search in the premises rented for conducting worship services forbidden brochures were discovered. Believers declared that the literature, which is included in the Federal List of Extremist Materials, had been planted on them.


But back on 29 January 2016, the directorate of the Russian MVD for the Jewish Autonomous Oblast reported that personnel of the Group for Combating Extremism, along with personnel of the UFSB, discovered in the place of meetings of the Birobidzhan congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses three books and seven brochures that were included in the Federal List of Extremist Materials. The literature was confiscated and an administrative protocol on the basis of article 20.29 of the Code of Administrative Violations of Law was drawn up again against the leader of the congregation. Members of the congregation pointed out that personnel of the UFSB and the police interrupted a worship service and conducted a search without producing a warrant, and they again talked about the planting of materials. The court found the head of the congregation guilty and fined him 3,000 rubles. On 8 June 2016 the court of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast confirmed this decision.


In this way, the Ministry of Justice received a formal basis for filing a lawsuit for the liquidation of the organization, which was granted by the oblast court and has now been confirmed by the Supreme Court of the Russian federation.


We recall that we consider the practice of banning Jehovah's Witnesses' literature for extremism to be illegal and we consider the prosecution of believers and liquidation of their congregations as religious discrimination. (tr. by PDS, posted 19 February 2017)

Background article:
Jehovah's Witnesses in Jewish autonomous region threatened
September 7, 2016

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