2019-02-13 11:53:00

Russian courts' ban on Jehovah's Witnesses founded - Justice Ministry

Moscow, February 13, Interfax - The Russian Justice Ministry has described the rulings of Russian courts which branded Jehovah's Witnesses as an extremist organization and prohibited its activity in Russia as founded and lawful, the ministry press service said in a statement seen by Interfax.

"The Russian authorities based their legal position on the founded and lawful nature of national courts' rulings on the Jehovah's Witnesses religious organization, which means there is no breach of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms," the statement said.

The ministry noted that the stance was presented in the response given to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in December 2018 in connection with preparations for hearing the cases of the Jehovah's Witnesses of Russia and Kalinin vs. Russia and Glazov LRO and Others vs. Russia.

"No judgments have been passed in these cases," the ministry said, adding that the date of hearings at the ECHR was so far unknown.

On April 20, 2017, the Russian Supreme Court upheld the Justice Ministry's lawsuit, branded Jehovah's Witnesses of Russia and its local affiliates as extremist organizations, and banned their activity in Russia.

The court ordered to liquidate Jehovah's Witnesses of Russia and its 395 regional branches. The Justice Ministry put all of them on the list of organizations prohibited from operating in Russia. The court also ordered to impound assets of the organization.

Jehovah's Witnesses filed a lawsuit against Russia with the ECHR in fall 2017. According to the media, the claim for compensations neared 79 million euros (about 6 billion rubles), and the main demand is the return of the impounded assets.

Meanwhile, the Zheleznodorozhny District Court in Oryol found Danish citizen Dennis Christensen, a follower of Jehovah's Witnesses, guilty of organizing the activity of an extremist group and sentenced him to six years in jail on February 6, 2019.

The court order triggered a public outcry, both inside and outside Russia.