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Latest: Russian Government Hit On Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia

MOSCOW- State news agency RIA says Russian Supreme Court has upheld the decision of the City Court in Birobidzhan to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses, a decision that comes amidst a Justice Ministry suit to ban the activities of the religious organisation in Russia.Several  publications of Jehovah’s witnesses had earlier this year been placed on a list of banned extremist literature in Russia, and prosecutors have long cast it as an organisation that destroys families, fosters hatred and threatens lives, a description which every reasonable reader of publications of Witnesses would agree is false.

The Justice Ministry in Moscow has been investigating the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Russian headquarters near St. Petersburg over the last year and claimed it discovered violations of a Russian law banning extremism. The ministry accused the organization of disseminating “extremist” pamphlets and said the center, and nearly 400 other local branches of the group, should be “liquidated.”

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Lawyers representing the movement earlier in the week submitted a counter suit, asking the Russian Supreme Court to declare its members victims of political repression and the justice ministry’s action unlawful. The court in reply said it had no jurisdiction to do so.

The Supreme Court decided that the counterclaim could not be reviewed during the session, as it was filed in an inappropriate court. and rejected the request.

The  Court also refused to let 395 local chapters of Jehovah’s Witnesses participate in the hearings.

The Justice Ministry’s official said Jehovah’s Witnesses insist on their own exclusiveness, which also contradicts the law on resistance to extremist activity.

“Checks have found that the organisation is in breach of the law on resistance to extremism. In particular, the organisation’s religious literature forbids blood transfusion for its members in defiance of the doctors’ recommendation,” the spokeswoman said, providing documentary evidence about one such case.

“The religious organization Jehovah’s Witnesses has been repeatedly warned by courts of law, but it has taken no required measures to eliminate the violations,” the Justice Ministry said.

 The Justice Ministry believes that Jehovah’s Witnesses must be outlawed and the organization’s properties, including those of the 395 regional chapters, confiscated.

“In view of the threat posed by the organisation Jehovah’s Witnesses,  the Justice Ministry asks for declaring it extremist and banning its activity,” the Justice Ministry’s official said.

 In its lawsuit the Justice Ministry mentions a variety of violations, including those of the the federal law on resistance to extremist activities.

Jehovah’s Witnesses’ press-service has told TASS the organisation “finds this affair very worrisome, because the decision may affect 175,000 believers.” Jehovah’s Witnesses spokesman Ivan Bilenko said the organisation was prepared to press for its rights in any courts.

A court in Moscow on October 12, 2016 warned the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses over extremist activities. If the organisation in question fails to eliminate the exposed violations within the established deadlines, or if new evidence of its extremist activities surfaces, it is to be closed down.

The Moscow City Court on January 16 upheld the warning over extremist activities.

Jehovah’s Witnesses is an international religious organisation that maintains offbeat views on the essence of the Christian faith and provides special interpretations of many commonly accepted notions. In Russia, it had 21 local organisations but three of them were shut down for extremism.

The group was founded in the US in the late 19th Century and during Joseph Stalin’s reign of terror in the Soviet Union it was outlawed and thousands of members were deported to Siberia. Other Christian groups were also persecuted. Later on the Soviet Union collapsed and the ban was lifted in 1991.

However, the group was later banned in 2004 on charges of recruiting children and preventing believers from accepting medical assistance.

Jehovah’s Witnesses take most of the Bible literally and refuse blood transfusions.

In 2009 a report commissioned by prosecutors in southern Russia found that they “undermined respect” in other religions.

Human rights group Sova has said that an “official repressive campaign” has been conducted against the movement for years and many of their members have been physically attacked.

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Source; BBC News, PressReader.com