Russian customs office finally releases bulk of literature shipment
VYBORG, Russia—Most of the contents of a shipment of literature addressed to the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia was released by the Vyborg Customs officials after being detained for two months.
Earlier, on October 6, the Vyborg Customs officials held up a shipment of literature intended for Jehovah’s Witnesses because “it may contain material intended to incite religious discord.” Then on October 22, Customs officials issued a decision to have all the literature in the shipment subjected to an expert study. On October 26, without awaiting the results of the study, Customs issued a letter to the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia stating that “release of the goods is forbidden” and that “action must be taken to ensure that the goods are removed” from the country within 72 hours, with no further explanation given. The shipment was not yet transported out of the country because of an appeal to the St. Petersburg Court of Arbitration.
In a letter dated October 29, the Vyborg Customs stated the following: “. . . In agreement with the decision of the Rostov District Court from September 11, 2009, customs processing of the goods declared in the freight declaration is deemed impossible since the printed item “Come Be My Follower” has been declared extremist material.” In response, Jehovah’s Witnesses supplied proof that the Rostov court decision could not yet be enforced since it has been appealed to the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation. The Customs sent their own inquiry to the Rostov District Court to confirm that fact. On November 11, after more than a month, all of the literature with the exception of one title was released to the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia.
Several shipments of Bibles and other publications intended for Jehovah’s Witnesses have since been imported into Russia and processed by the St. Petersburg Customs without hindrance. Meanwhile, a significant case related to the literature itself will soon be heard by the Russian Supreme Court.
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