APRIL 19, 2017
Today, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation began reviewing the extensive case files—43 volumes of documents. It also allowed attorneys for the Administrative Center (Center) to include new evidence of raids on the religious services of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In March and April 2017, law enforcement agencies disrupted these religious services and threatened those in attendance with criminal charges.
In considering the request of the Ministry of Justice (Ministry) to liquidate the 395 existing legal entities (Local Religious Organizations or LROs), the Court heard arguments regarding the legal and canonical structure of Jehovah’s Witnesses. When it reviewed the earlier decisions banning eight LROs, the attorneys for the Witnesses pointed out that those decisions were based on fabricated evidence and flawed by procedural errors.
Additionally, attorneys for the Center emphasized that the Ministry is using a double standard. During trials to liquidate the LROs, the Ministry maintained that the Center had no connection to the activity of the LROs. It also interfered with any attempt by the Center to participate in court proceedings. However, in this case, the Ministry asserts that the Center is liable for alleged violations in the activity of the LROs and for the “extremism” contained in the Witnesses’ literature.
The Ministry has performed numerous inspections of the Witnesses’ legal entities and submitted volumes of these inspection reports to the Court. Yet, when questioned, the Ministry could not identify a single incident in which the Witnesses engaged in extremist activity.
The Court will resume hearings on April 20, 2017, at 2:00 p.m.