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FEBRUARY 27, 2017

Ministry of Justice Performs Large-Scale Inspection of Witnesses’ National Office in Russia

Russia’s Ministry of Justice is executing a large-scale investigation of the Witnesses’ national office in Russia. At the order of the Prosecutor General, the Ministry of Justice notified the Witnesses on February 1, 2017, that it will inspect their Administrative Center. As part of this inspection, scheduled for February 8 through 27, the Ministry of Justice requires the Administrative Center to provide all records concerning its property, financial statements, organizational structure, educational activity, and doctrinal practices. The Administrative Center submitted over 73,000 pages of relevant documents to the authorities on February 15, 2017.

This massive inspection comes on the heels of a recent Moscow City Court decision upholding the warning the Prosecutor General issued to the Administrative Center in March 2016. In that warning, the Prosecutor General threatened to close the Administrative Center on charges of extremism. Since then, courts in other areas of Russia have ruled to liquidate several local legal entities of the Witnesses for alleged “extremist activity,” despite clear evidence that the charges are based on fabricated evidence.

With this inspection, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia are concerned that the threat of liquidation of their national office is imminent. Russian authorities have so far shown that they are willing to ignore international standards on human rights by attacking, and possibly restricting, the peaceful worship of Jehovah’s Witnesses.