Sympathetic press coverage for Jehovah's Witnesses


Kavkazskii Uzel, 7 April 2017


In 26 years of official activity in Russia of the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses, no harm from their activity has been proven, the head of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, Vasily Kalin, declared in the Supreme Court. His deputy, Sergei Cherepanov, pointed out that only in Russia are Jehovah's Witnesses prosecuted for extremism, although in the world around 20 million persons attend their worship services.


As Kavkazskii Uzel had written, the lawsuit of the Ministry of Justice for banning the activity of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia has been under consideration by the Supreme Court from 5 April. Lawyers for the defendant called the attempt to ban their activity political repressions, although the court did not agree with this assessment.


At the beginning of the session today the court wondered how, in importing its materials into Russia, the organization could know beforehand that they will be ruled to be extremist. After that, publications of materials of the Jehovah's Witnesses, with dates of their being ruled extremist, were added to the case.


Then the court was addressed by the chairman of the Governing Body of the Administrative Center, Vasily Kalin. He declared that in 26 years, the center has not been held accountable for extremism.


"If all these years we were good, then at what point did we become extremists?" Vasily Kalin declared.


He said that if a ban occurs, it will cause substantial harm to believers and the persecution has already begun. However the position of Jehovah's Witnesses has not changed: to submit to the authorities, to pray for them, and always to adhere to the principles of loving peace, Kalin noted.


The actions of the Ministry of Justice lead the struggle with extremism onto a false path, declared Sergei Cherepanov, Kalin's deputy, in his turn. He noted that in recent years 20 criminal cases were initiated against Jehovah's Witnesses on the "Extremism" article, but the majority ended with acquittals. Cherepanov emphasized that his organization has taken all possible measures for combating extremism.


Prosecuting Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia means challenging all those countries where believers freely profess their faith, Cherepanov indicated, adding that in the world about 20 million persons attend Jehovah's Witnesses' worship services.


The attorney Zhenkov, in his address, declared that contrary to the affirmation of the Ministry of Justice, there is no extremism among the goals and tasks of the Jehovah's Witnesses religious organization.


"If in 100 years of unofficial and 26 years of official existence of the Jehovah's Witnesses, no harm from their activity has been proven, then what kind of harm is the Ministry of Justice referring to?" Zhenkov asked during his address in the trial.


He also emphasized that literature that had been ruled to be extremist was never imported into Russia.


Zhenkov called attention to the fact that cases connected with finding Jehovah's Witnesses' literature to be extremist have been appealed to the European Court for Human Rights. The lawyer pointed out that 22 appeals were joined into one proceeding and in response to a question from the Strasbourg court the Russian federation officially acknowledged that the literature of Jehovah's Witness does not contain open calls for violence, according to reporting from the courtroom that is posted on the website "Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia."


We recall that the Russian Ministry of Justice also requested to confiscate the property of the religious organization, while acknowledging that it does not possess information about violations of laws that had been committed under the influence of Jehovah's Witnesses' literature.


Local religious organizations in the Southern Federal District and North Caucasus Federal District have frequently been fined for using literature that later was entered into the Federal List of Extremist Materials. Also several local organizations have been liquidated, including those in Taganrog, Abinsk, Cherkessk, and Elista. "They take every instance when we say that our faith is correct, and they get extremism out of it," a representative of the head Russian office, Yaroslav Sivulsky, commented on these precedents earlier for Kavkazskii Uzel. Prosecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia has reached an unprecedented scale, declared Russian rights advocates. (tr. by PDS, posted 8 April 2017)



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