Rights advocate fears criminalization of tens of thousands believers


Echo of Moscow, 17 March 2017


Consideration of the lawsuit of the Russian Ministry of Justice for ruling the "Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia" to be an extremist organization and for liquidating it and banning its activity on the territory of the country has been scheduled by the Supreme Court of the RF for 5 April


Granting the lawsuit by the court will be an act that is unconstitutional and a violation of freedom of religious confession. This opinion was expressed on a broadcast of radio station Echo of Moscow by the director of the SOVA Center for News and Analysis, Alexander Verkhovsky.


"Of course this violates freedom of religious confession, because there already have been many bans of local organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses and prohibition of their brochures, texts, and website.  And they are considered to be extremist simply because they themselves consider that their religion is best of all. Speaking frankly, this is a bit wild," he said.


A. Verkhovsky emphasized that the ban of the Administrative Center will entail the automatic ban of all local organizations.


"Believers are not going anywhere from this, they will all still gather together, and all this activity can be viewed as a criminal offense. I do not rule out that such measures will be applied. It will turn out that more than 100,000 persons will prove to be in some sense criminals although they do not intend to commit a crime. I think that somebody needs to intervene now. The prosecutor general's office has gone much too far," he concluded. (tr. by PDS, posted 26 March 2017)

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