Sunday, May 28, 2017

Russia: Fines, vandalism follow Jehovah's Witness liquidation


The many problems flow from both the 20 April liquidation ruling itself and the Justice Ministry's earlier order suspending Jehovah's Witness activities for the duration of court proceedings.

Anti-Jehovah's Witnesses Billboard in Russia
Times of Ahmad | News Watch | UK Desk
Source/Credit: Forum 18 News
By Victoria Arnold | May 26, 2017

As Jehovah's Witnesses challenge the Supreme Court liquidation of all their organisations as "extremist", their Centre is closed, police have sealed some Kingdom Halls and bank accounts are frozen. Individuals continue to face fines, children face pressure, and places of worship face increased vandalism.

Pressure on children, further fines for individuals and an upsurge in incidents of vandalism against places of worship have followed the 20 April Supreme Court ruling that the Jehovah's Witness Administrative Centre and all its local religious organisations across Russia should be liquidated as "extremist".

The Centre's activities are suspended, police have sealed some Kingdom Halls and all bank accounts have been frozen. One early denial of a civilian alternative to military service may foreshadow future difficulties for Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors.

On 25 May, FSB security service officers in Oryol arrested Danish citizen Dennis Christensen on suspicion of "continuing the activities of a banned extremist organisations" (Article 282.2, Part 1 of the Criminal Code). This is the first criminal case to be initiated since the Supreme Court's liquidation ruling.

According to Jehovah's Witness reports, fifteen armed men raided a building in which local Jehovah's Witnesses were meeting, took the worshippers' passport details and seized their electronic devices. Several were then taken to the local FSB headquarters, where they were kept until the early hours of the morning. Law enforcement agents also conducted searches of believers' homes.

So far, only Christensen has been charged. He is currently being held, "without food", at the FSB building. On 26 May, Soviet District Court in Oryol acceded to the FSB request to hold him in pre-trial custody for two months.

The many problems flow from both the 20 April liquidation ruling itself and the Justice Ministry's earlier order suspending Jehovah's Witness activities for the duration of court proceedings.

On 19 May, lawyers for the Administrative Centre lodged an appeal against the 20 April Supreme Court liquidation ruling. It is not known when the Supreme Court will hear the appeal.



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