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DECEMBER 5, 2017

Hearing to Begin on State Seizure of Witnesses’ National Office in Russia

Hearing to Begin on State Seizure of Witnesses’ National Office in Russia

Russian authorities are moving forward in their efforts to seize properties used by the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses, located in Solnechnoye, near St. Petersburg.

The April 20, 2017, Supreme Court decision ordered all of the Witnesses’ legal entities liquidated and their properties confiscated, including the properties used by the Administrative Center. However, the property in question is owned by a U.S. entity—Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania (WTPA). The prosecutor is therefore attempting to invalidate a 17-year-old contract that legally transferred the property to WTPA. The contract was never in question prior to the Supreme Court decision, and WTPA has been paying taxes on the property since the transfer. The authorities are now stooping to subterfuge in order to legitimize their ultimate goal of seizing the property.

At the preliminary hearing on November 29, 2017, the judge dismissed all motions filed by the Witnesses’ attorneys, paving the way for the prosecutor’s case. Beyond the potential loss of the property, worth millions of dollars, the Center was home to nearly 400 Russian citizens and foreign nationals, some of whom have lived there for 20 or more years. The move from their home and the disruption in their volunteer religious service in behalf of their fellow Russians have been traumatic.

The hearing on the merits of the case will begin on December 7, 2017, at 2:00 p.m. in the Sestroretskiy District Court in St. Petersburg.