MOSCOW CITY COURT OVERTURNS DECISION OF COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE FORBIDDING BELIEVERS TO MEET FOR PRAYER IN COMMUNAL APARTMENT
SOVA Center for News and Analysis, 5 April 2019
On 4 April 2019, a Moscow city court overturned a decision of the Ostankino court of Moscow, which on 29 January 2019 prohibited the activity of a religious group of Christians of Evangelical Faith (Pentecostals) on the basis of a complaint by a neighbor in a communal apartment. The issue is the so-called "Ageev case."
We recall, the room in which meetings of believers were conducted is located in the property of one of the members of the congregation. His neighbor in the communal apartment appealed to the prosecutor's office, writing: "It is uncomfortable for me when they pray there in this home." The text of the decision of the Ostankino court explains that the ban on conducting worship gatherings in a communal apartment is based on the fact the neighbors (plaintiffs) are not members of the religious group, which conducts these meetings, and they did not give their consent for conducting services or religious rituals and ceremonies in a communal apartment.
The lawyer managed to show in the course of the appeal that "in the decision of the court, a mistaken conclusion was made that worship services were being conducted in the whole apartment, which does not correspond to the evidence presented" (meetings were conducted on Sundays in the second half of the day in a room of the believers and they were attended by 8 to 15 persons).
"If it were possible to agree with the decision of the court, then it is only in the part pertaining to the rooms owned in common," the lawyer Konstantin Andreev thinks. "However the plaintiffs did not make such claims. What was requested was a ban on conducting the activity specifically in room No. 3 (where the believers lived—ed. note)."
The lawyer also recalled that according to the law "On freedom of conscience" (point 2 of article 16), worship services and other religious rituals and ceremonies are conducted without hindrance in residences (that is, in a house or part of a house, or in an apartment or in part of an apartment, or in a room). (tr. by PDS, posted 5 April 2019)
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