Summing up first day of Jehovah's Witnesses case


by Ksenia Polskaia,

Deutsche Welle, 5 April 2017

The Supreme Court of the Russian federation refused to suspend consideration of the lawsuit for the liquidation of the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses on the territory of the country. It also did not recognize it as a victim of political repressions.


On Wednesday, 5 April, the Supreme Court of the Russian federation refused to suspend proceedings based on the lawsuit of the Russian Ministry of Justice for finding Russian divisions of the Jehovah's Witnesses to be an extremist organization and for banning their activity on the territory of the country.


Lawyers representing the Jehovah's Witnesses requested a suspension of proceedings until the issuance of decisions by courts of general jurisdiction in a number of cases, the Interfax news agency notes. Now 90 printed materials of this religious organization and also eight cases for banning of the activity of regional divisions are being considered in courts. They may be ruled to be extremist.


395 divisions of Jehovah's Witnesses have not been included in the case.


Earlier on the same day, 5 April, the court refused to include 395 representatives of regional divisions of Jehovah's Witnesses as co-defendants in the lawsuit. A lawyer for the Ministry of Justice declared that the lawsuit affects the interests of the organization "Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses." "We oppose the inclusion in the case of local religious organizations as structural subdivisions of Jehovah's Witnesses," the ministry's lawyer said.


Representatives of the religious organization in the court reported that the rights of regional divisions are violated everywhere. "At the present time, even before the decision of the court, police personnel have interrupted worship services, citing the order of the Ministry of Justice. Bank accounts of regional divisions have been blocked, as well as those of private individuals," a lawyer for the Jehovah's Witnesses said on 5 April.


Organization's counter suit was not accepted.


Nevertheless, the Supreme Court of the RF, having listened to the arguments of the parties, refused to accept the counter suit of the Jehovah's Witnesses for finding the organization to be a victim of political repressions. "The rules of jurisdiction do not provide for acceptance of a counter suit. But at the same time, judicial monitoring of the legality of the activity of the Ministry of Justice, based on the written objections of the defendant, will be conducted," the judge announced the decision.


The Supreme Court is considering the question of finding the Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia to be an extremist organization and of banning its activity on the territory of the country on the basis of an administrative lawsuit of the Ministry of Justice of the RF. The lawsuit was filed on 15 March and at the same time, by order of the justice ministry, the work of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia was suspended until consideration of the lawsuit.


Jehovah's Witnesses are threatened with confiscation of property.


The Ministry of Justice is seeking the liquidation of the organization "Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia" and of 395 local organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses, as well as confiscation of their property. In the press service of the religious organization, the TASS news agency was told that this fact is regarded as exceptionally alarming inasmuch as the decision may affect 175 thousand actively practicing believers. A representative of the press service, Ivan Bilenko, noted that the organization will defend its rights in all judicial instances.


On 12 October 2016 the Tver court of Moscow issued a warning to the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia regarding "extremist activity." Russian law provides that if within the period of time established in the warning the religious association does not remove the violations being committed, and if new incidents are revealed testifying to the presence of "indicators of extremism," then the organization is liable for liquidation. On 16 January the Moscow city court ruled that the warning about extremist activity with respect to the Jehovah's Witnesses was legal.


Hearings of the Supreme Court of the RF with regard to this lawsuit will be continued on 6 April. (tr. by PDS, posted 5 April 2017)

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