Russian prosecutors attempt to use extremist law against Jehovah’s Witnesses

For Immediate Release

Russian prosecutors attempt to use extremist law against Jehovah’s Witnesses

YEKATERINBURG, Russia—The prosecutor’s office in the city of Asbest is seeking to misapply a law on extremist activity to Jehovah’s Witnesses’ literature. This could lead to a ban on the literature used by Jehovah’s Witnesses and even on their worship in the region.

Following a similar pattern in the Rostov Region, the prosecutor’s office has recently filed a claim to the Rostov Regional Court to liquidate the local religious organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the city of Taganrog. On June 20, 2008, the court ruled that the case was admissible and that the hearing will begin on July 10.

A June report on the Web site of the General Prosecutor’s Office confirms that officials in the city of Asbest have carried out a “criminal” investigation into the activity of the local religious organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The report states that as a result, violations of the law to counteract extremism were established.

Asbest City Prosecutor V.A. Chukreyev has confirmed that an application has been filed demanding to declare The Watchtower and other literature produced by Jehovah’s Witnesses as having evidence of extremism. The supporting arguments are allegedly based on the conclusions of religious and linguistic expert studies of the publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, while repeatedly referring to these expert studies, the prosecutor’s office refused to provide them to Jehovah’s Witnesses for a review. The position of the prosecutor’s office is mainly based on the allegation that Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that only their religion is true while all the others are false.

The undisclosed findings would apparently conflict with expert opinions already documented in Russia, such as the following:

“The … literature of the religious organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses does not contain calls for violent change to the foundation of the constitutional order … or to commit other illegal acts.”— Expert council under the Russian Federation Ministry of Justice, 1999.

“Any facts of intentionally inciting religious discord or calls for discrimination, hatred or violence against the followers of other religions cannot be found in the literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”—Professor Sergei Ivanenko, 2000.

“The idea of the exclusivity of religious belief is held by all religions without exception.”—Professor Nikolai Gordienko.

Jehovah’s Witnesses have more than seven million active members in 236 lands worldwide and over 152,000 in Russia. Their main publication—The Watchtower—is the most widely distributed religious magazine in the world, with a circulation of over 37 million copies in 167 languages.

U.S. contact: James E. Andrik, telephone +1-(845) 306-0711
Russian-speaking contact: Yaroslav Sivulski, telephone +7-812-432-95-50

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