Jehovah's Witnesses leadership clearly summarizes its case


Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 13 February 2019


On 6 February 2019, the resident of Orel Dennis Christensen was sentenced to six years incarceration on the basis that the Russian Supreme Court had liquidated the Orel local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses, like hundreds of other organizations of this confession also, considering that it was engaged in extremist activity. The Jehovah's Witnesses consider to be baseless and illegal 1) the guilty verdict against Christensen, 2) the decision of the Supreme Court liquidating the religious organizations, and 3) the ruling that Christian books of Jehovah's Witnesses are "extremist materials," which underlies all decisions. Why?


Why is the guilty verdict against Christensen unjust? Because it contradicts the Russian government's own legal position, which was presented to the E.C.H.R.: "The government of the Russian Federation emphasizes that the decision of the Russian Supreme Court of 20 April 2017 and the appellate determination of the Appellate College of the Russian Supreme Court of 17 July 2017 do not give an assessment of the religious teaching of Jehovah's Witnesses and do not contain a restriction or prohibition on professing the aforementioned teaching individually." The explanation of the Russian government in the United Nations Commission on Human Rights is worded thus: "The decision [of the Russian Supreme Court] does not restrict the right of citizens to freedom of religion. Members of the liquidated organization have the possibility of independently practicing their confession provided that they do not distribute literature of extremist contents or participate in any way in illegal activity." The court's mistake consists in the fact that the court interpreted the ordinary, legal activity of Dennis Christensen as "arranging the activity of an extremist organization."


Why are the decisions of the Supreme Court regarding liquidation of religious organizations unjust? Because at their base lies falsified "evidence," which the Supreme Court accepted on faith. In 2015-2016 there occurred in regions of Russia an epidemic of plantings of forbidden materials, similar to one another, in the houses of worship of Jehovah's Witnesses and their subsequent discovery, which often was recorded on surveillance cameras. Courts on the lower level waved off the protests on the part of believers and imposed fines on congregations, although subsequently the Russian Supreme Court gave to these decisions prejudicial force and formally liquidated all organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses. This led to the seizure from believers of hundreds of houses of worship with a total value of over six billion rubles and also to criminal cases and prison incarceration of dozens of people.


Why are decisions of courts ruling the Christian books of the Jehovah's Witnesses to be "extremist materials" unjust? Beginning in 2009, books were included in the Federal List of Extremist Materials for the most harmless statements, such as: "People worship many things. But the Bible says that there is only one true God. Not all beliefs and rituals are bad. But God does not approve those that originated from false religion and contradict biblical teachings." The reason for the stupid decisions is the vague definitions of "extremism" in the law and the clear incompetence or prejudice of judges who consider the Jehovah's Witnesses' belief in the truth of their religious choice to be "extremism."


"The inclusion of Jehovah's Witnesses' books in the Federal List of Extremist Materials is the only reason for charges of extremism advanced against our fellow believers in Russia," says Yaroslav Sivulsky of the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses. "The Russian Supreme Court was in a position to make a timely separation of the wheat from the chaff but it did not do this. This led to the irreparable suffering of thousands of people whose only guilt is their faith. They are hoping that the Russian authorities will find in themselves the courage to correct the mistakes and restore the rights of people who are guilty of nothing." (tr. by PDS, posted 13 February 2019)

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