Threat to national office of Jehovah's Witnesses grows


Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 15 February 2017


On 15 February 2017, the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia was forced to turn over to the Russian Ministry of Justice more than 73,000 pages of internal documents. In the notification about the unscheduled inspection, the Ministry of Justice of Russia did not hide the fact that it was acting at the request of the office of the prosecutor general of the Russian federation. What does such an inspection signify?


On 2 March 2017 a year will have passed since the day of the issuing to the Administrative Center of a warning about the impermissibility of conducting extremist activity. In it the deputy to the Russian prosecutor general threatens the closure of the centralized religious organization in the event that there appear in the course of 12 months "new instances" of extremist activity. Believers tried unsuccessfully to challenge the prosecutorial warning in courts of various instances, arguing for the illegality and artificiality of accusations of extremism against the Jehovah's Witnesses.


During these 12 months, the number of cases of falsification of evidence against the Jehovah's Witnesses substantially increased, primarily by means of plants of printed "extremist materials" in houses of worship. In 2016 alone there occurred no fewer than 46 of such plants, several of which were recorded on surveillance cameras. Believers sent pertinent statements to law enforcement agencies, although instead of investigating them and identifying criminals, prosecutor offices issued warnings to the believers themselves.


In order to declare Jehovah's Witnesses outside the law, the prosecutor's office follows a simplified scenario. One planted brochure often is the equivalent of the warning to a local religious organization (Mestnaia Religioznaia Organizatsiia—MRO). After this, in the course of a year after the warning, due to new plants, "new instances" of extremist activity of this MRO are identified. On the basis of this completely fabricated

case, the MRO is liquidated. And the fact of the liquidation of the MRO is used for accusing the centralized organization of extremism. It was on this basis that the warning to the Administrative Center was issued. And the prosecutor general in his request to the Ministry of Justice about conducting the unscheduled inspection maintains that "new instances" of extremist activity by the Administrative Center are already established, since after the warning, several more MROs were liquidated in accordance with the aforementioned scenario.


Does the prosecutor's office intend to use this scenario with respect to the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia and to liquidate it on the basis of the fabricated accusations of extremism? This is not known, but all necessary steps for this have already been undertaken by the office of prosecutor general.

"Now the Ministry of Justice, at the request of the office of prosecutor general, is thoroughly examining the property and activity of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia," says Yaroslav Sivulsky of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia. "Is the full-scale inspection a preparation for a lawsuit for the liquidation of the Administrative Center? We do not know. However, in light of the fact that the religion of the Jehovah's Witnesses is professed by hundreds of thousands of Russian citizens, such a step would be a genuine catastrophe with respect to rights and liberties in our country.


Without any exaggeration, this would cast us back to the dark times of persecutions for our faith, which are still fresh in the memory of the older generation. I hope that this does not happen." (tr. by PDS, posted 16 February 2017)


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