Third day of Jehovah's Witnesses case


RIA Novosti, 7 April 2017


The Russian Supreme Court declared a recess until 12 April in the trial of the lawsuit of the Russian Ministry of Justice for the liquidation of the headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses in the RF and for finding their activity to be extremist and banning their work, a RIA Novosti correspondent reports from the courtroom.


Next Wednesday the court will question four witnesses from the side of the organization and also examine written evidence in the case.


During the trial it became known that the Ministry of Justice accuses the Jehovah's Witnesses, in particular, of refusing blood transfusions. Meanwhile a lawyer for the organization noted that refusing blood transfusion is not extremist; such an act is not in the law on combating extremist activity. He noted that the Ministry of Justice introduced as an example only a single instance, when doctors offered parents two alternative means of treatment, one of which provided for blood transfusion. But the parents wanted to treat the child with medications.


The Ministry of Justice is sure that the work of the Jehovah's Witnesses causes a threat to the protection of the rights and interests of society and public safety, a lawyer for the ministry pointed out. She cited decisions of courts that found 95 brochures of Jehovah's Witnesses and also the activity of eight organizations in regions of Russia to be extremist. Lawyers for the organization retorted that the charges were against quotations from the Bible. Besides, government agencies had not reconsidered the question of the presence of extremism in these brochures after the introduction of changes into legislation about such crimes.


Now the work of the Jehovah's Witnesses' center is suspended by order of the Ministry of Justice until the court makes a decision. The organization challenged this order in the Zamoskvoreche court of Moscow. The Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia is the parent organization that manages the affiliates of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia. This religious organization regularly has problems with the law in Russia, from judicial orders banning the activity and liquidation divisions to fines for possession of extremist materials. (tr. by PDS, posted 7 April 2017)


Portal-Credo.Ru, 7 April 2017


The absurdity of the position of the Russian Ministry of Justice, demanding that all 396 religious organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia be ruled to be "extremist," and to ban their activity and confiscate their property, and also the mass of contradictions appearing in the course of judicial proceedings forced the Supreme Court of the RF on 7 April to again postpone consideration of the case, this time until 12 April, a Portal-Credo.Ru correspondent reports.


The session on 7 April began with questions from Judge Ivanenko to lawyers of the Ministry of Justice to which, as yesterday also, no clear answers were received. In particular, the judge asked on what basis the ministry accused the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia of importing "extremist" literature even before it was ruled to be "extremist," and on what basis the ministry calls 395 local JW religious organizations "structural subdivisions" of the center, if the center is not there founder and they, in their turn, are not members of the composition of the center, and also on what basis the ministry regards any financial help by the center to local organizations as "financing extremist activity."


The elder of the Russian Jehovah's Witnesses, Vasily Kalin, who was repressed by the soviet regime for his faith, showed the court his certification as a victim of political repressions and shared his memories of his life, which suddenly turn out to be "memories of the future" in the contemporary Russian federation. His deputy, Sergei Cherepanov, called the court's attention to the fact that the majority of the 20 criminal cases that have been initiated in recent years in the RF with regard to Jehovah's Witnesses on accusations of "extremism" ended with acquittals. He also described in detail incidents of plants of "extremist literature" in JW houses of worship by personnel of law enforcement agencies, which were documented by recording by Jehovah's Witnesses, and not one of these did authorities investigate, despite appeals of believers at all possible judicial instances.


Lawyers introduced examples of the obvious absurdity of the actions of the Russian justice ministry against Jehovah's Witnesses, when general phrases were considered "extremist" (for example, "Avoid evil actions"). Even after the Russian law about the impossibility of finding the Bible and quotations from it to be "extremist" took effect, the prosecutor's office of the RF sought for rulings that the copies of the Bible that Jehovah's Witnesses use are "extremist," arguing that "the Bible is the Bible only in the Church." The European Court for Human Rights combined all 22 appeals from Jehovah's Witnesses against finding their literature "extremist" into one proceeding, while in the Russian federation's response to these appeals it was acknowledged that JW literature does not contain calls for violence.


The defendants called the court's attention to the fact that the Ministry of Justice was not able to provide a single victim of "extremist activity" by Jehovah's Witnesses, and also to the fact that previously in this same Supreme Court of the RF the justice ministry defended the position that liquidation of local JW organizations does not affect the rights and interests of their center, while now on the basis of a ban of the activity of the center the same ministry demands banning the activity of all 395 local JW organizations.


The defendants challenged the justice ministry thesis about "structural subdivisions": first, this term is used by Russian legislation only with regard to political parties; second, each local JW organization in Russia has its own founders and is not a member of the centralized organization. (tr. by PDS, posted 7 April 2017)

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