Wednesday, March 22, 2017

RUSSIA Jehovah's Witnesses' presence at risk across Russia

On March 15 the Ministry of Justice presented a lawsuit at the Supreme Court seeking that the Jehovah's Witnesses administrative center be declared an "extremist organization". 

If the cause is successful, the religious activities of Jehovah's Witnesses will be prohibited throughout Russia and the property of the administrative center will be confiscated by the state. 

The JW community will be forbidden to gather and violators will be prosecuted as involved in "extremist activity".
 
The problems date back to years ago. 

The JWs have always been viewed with suspicion: their encounters have suffered police raids; their publications have been confiscated; they are forbidden to go from door to door. 

The anti-terrorism laws, very general, have branded least 90 publications of Jehovah's Witnesses as "extremist" because they have "negative" judgments towards other religions and urge members not to do military service.

The cause will be followed by the judge Nikolai Romanenkov. 

"Once they have examined the case - said a secretary of the Court - the judge will determine when the hearing will begin and whether it will be open to the public. All information will be available on the Court's web site. "

On 27 February, the Ministry of Justice has completed an inspection of the structure and activities of the administrative center of Jehovah's Witnesses. 

On completion of the inspection, Svetlana Borisova, Filatova and Izmaylova Galina, the department officials for religious organizations of the Ministry of Justice, have drafted a 32-page report on the current condition of the religious group.

The report concludes that despite the warnings of the Prosecutor of the Russian Federation, "the structural subdivisions of the administrative center are engaged in extremist activities, which violate the rights and freedoms of man and citizen and harm people, public order and "national security. 

According to the report, the administrative center of the JW is responsible for providing "inaccurate" information on "extremist" literature that arrived in Russia in 2014 despite being declared illegal.

The Supreme Court has included 95 religious texts of Jehovah's Witnesses on the national list of extremist materials. Many of the members were fined and prosecuted for possession of these texts. 

 According to Forum 18, since 2007 there were a total of 39 warnings and official information on the "inadmissibility of extremist activity" in 29 regions of the country. 

In March 2016, the administrative center of Jehovah's Witnesses in St. Petersburg also received an official warning.

The Jehovah's Witnesses are not the only group affected. 

The Supreme Court has upheld the causes for the dissolution of the Central Conference of the Russian United Methodist Church [in January 2016] and of the United Russian Islamic Conference the [April 2016]. 

The dissolution of these bodies, however, was not motivated by accusations of "extremism", but only by having failed to submit annual reports to the authorities and for the "inaccurate" information given on federal tax records. 

In Russia 58 organizations are already banned, these inlcude seven of the JW community in Taganrog, Samara, Abinsk, Stary Oskol, Belgorod, Elista and Oryol.

In the country, the JWs have at least 172 thousand members. 

During the commemoration of Jesus' death, the most important event of the year, the number of believers grows to about 300 thousand. 

At present, in Russia there are 397 registered organizations; more than 2500 are not approved by the government.

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