Thursday, March 30, 2017

Russia: Eye on Persecution | Jehovah's Witness activity largely halted


The Justice Ministry has not officially published the Order, but a mayor has posted a copy on his Facebook page, and it has been widely reproduced by other media.

Times of Ahmad | News Watch | UK Desk
Source/Credit: Forum 18 News
By Victoria Arnold | March 21, 2017

Russia has summarily suspended most Jehovah's Witness activities. UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai told Forum 18: "The Russian government is claiming that the Jehovah's Witnesses are an extremist group, but in fact it's their move to ban them outright that appears to be extreme."

As Jehovah's Witnesses await a Supreme Court ruling on whether to ban them across Russia and seize all their property, the Justice Ministry has summarily suspended most of their activities, including public meetings and financial transactions.

With immediate effect, a 15 March Suspension Order forbids the Administrative Centre and all its local religious organisations from "using state and municipal news media, organising and conducting assemblies, rallies, demonstrations, processions, picketing, and other mass actions or public events, and using bank deposits, with the exception of use for making payments connected with their economic activity, compensating for losses (damages) caused by their actions, and paying taxes, fees, or fines, and making payments based on labour contracts".

The Justice Ministry has not officially published the Order, but a mayor has posted a copy on his Facebook page, and it has been widely reproduced by other media.

The Justice Ministry claimed to Forum 18 that its 15 March Suspension Order does not ban meetings for worship, "except in cases of a mass or public nature". It remains unclear, however, how local officials will interpret the Order. On 16 March Penza Region's Justice Ministry branch suspended the activities of the four local Jehovah's Witness organisations in its jurisdiction, and on 20 March a similar order was issued by the Justice Ministry of the Karachai-Cherkessiya Republic.

Jehovah's Witnesses and others, such as readers of the works of Muslim theologian Said Nursi, are routinely prosecuted for possession of single copies of banned "extremist" tests – even though the law only allows prosecution for "mass distribution".


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