Jehovah's Witnesses face ban in Russian Federation

Jehovah’s Witnesses elder Andrei Sivak, a father of three may face charges of extremism

Andrei Sivak, a Russian elder of the Jehovah's Witnesses, was arrested in 2010 after undercover security officers infiltrated services and secretly filmed him leading worship.

"The religious organization Jehovah's Witnesses has been repeatedly warned by courts of law, but it has taken no required measures to eliminate the violations", the Justice Ministry spokeswoman said.

The Justice Ministry in Moscow has been investigating the Jehovah's Witnesses' Russian headquarters near St. Petersburg over the previous year and claimed it discovered violations of a Russian law banning extremism.

The Russian authorities have used their extremism law to systematically harass the Jehovah's Witnesses, a legally registered religious group in Russia with close to 200,000 adherents.

Russia's Supreme Court will continue hearing on Thursday a request by the government to ban Jehovah's Witnesses and declare the Christian group an extremist organisation.

According to Amnesty International, 16 members of the group in southern Russian Federation were found guilty of organising and participating in a banned "extremist organisation" in late 2015. Worldwide there are more than 7 million members.

"Right now the rights of local chapters are being violated", a spokesman for Jehovah's Witnesses told Russia's state-run news agency Tass.

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The U.S. commission said the treatment of the Jehovah's Witnesses reflects the Russian government's tendency to view all independent religious activity as a threat to its control and the country's political stability. "In its lawsuit, the Justice Ministry demands these organisations be shut down and their property confiscated, but none of them are represented here in this court".

The group, which was founded in the United States in the late 19th century, was banned during Joseph Stalin's reign in the Soviet Union.

They added that pamphlets handed out by religious representatives incited hatred against other groups.

USCIRF calls on the Russian government and judiciary to respect the freedom of religion or belief and halt their harassment of the Jehovah's Witnesses and other religious groups.

It's not the first time the religious group has faced opposition in the region.

This post was syndicated from Vanguard News.

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