On May 3, 2018, the Saint Petersburg City Court rejected the appeal that Jehovah’s Witnesses had filed to prevent the State from seizing their national office in Solnechnoye. The decision is now enforceable, and the State can take the property at any time.
This decision upholds an earlier ruling by the Sestroretskiy District Court that declared invalid a 17-year-old contract that transferred ownership of the Solnechnoye property to the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. Invalidating the contract paved the way for the court to assert that the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia had always owned the property. Consequently, the State may confiscate the property because the Administrative Center was liquidated in April 2017 by the Supreme Court. This unjust “reasoning” provided the government with a cloak of legality, enabling it to seize the property arbitrarily.
Philip Brumley, General Counsel for Jehovah’s Witnesses stated: “This decision is an outrageous miscarriage of justice. The property was dedicated to God and was used to facilitate the peaceful religious activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. The government is basically stealing it, and we are bringing this injustice to the European Court of Human Rights.”