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MARCH 16, 2017

Russia’s Ministry of Justice Moves to Ban Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia

Russia’s Ministry of Justice (Ministry) has filed a claim with the Supreme Court, seeking “to declare the religious organization, the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses, extremist, ban its activity, and liquidate it.” On March 15, 2017, the Supreme Court posted notice on its official website that it had received the claim from the Ministry. The Administrative Center later received notice that the Supreme Court will consider the liquidation claim and has scheduled a hearing for 10:00 a.m. on April 5, 2017.

A decision by the Supreme Court in favor of the claim brought by the Ministry would have dire consequences for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. The Witnesses could lose properties dedicated to religious worship, almost 400 legal entities could be dissolved, and each of the over 170,000 Witnesses could be criminally prosecuted merely for meeting for worship, reading the Bible together, or talking to others about their faith.

Vasiliy Kalin, a representative of the Administrative Center in Russia, stated: “The profound desire of each of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia is just to be able to worship our God peacefully. For over 100 years, the authorities in Russia have trampled on the guarantees of their own laws, which grant us this right. I was just a boy when Stalin exiled my family to Siberia merely because we were Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is sad and reprehensible that my children and grandchildren should be facing a similar fate. Never did I expect that we would again face the threat of religious persecution in modern Russia.”