For Immediate Release
June 16, 2004
Moscow Appeal Court outlaws 11,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses who brace for return to Soviet era
MOSCOW—The Moscow City (Appeal) Court ruled today to uphold a lower court decision to ban the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Moscow and to liquidate their legal entity. The ban and liquidation take effect immediately. Witnesses previously exiled to Siberia in the 1950s during the Soviet era and in attendance at the hearing expressed bewilderment at the ruling. “I felt as if I were back in the old days,” stated Vasily Kalin, who was five years old when he, his parents and his grandmother were among those forcibly transported in cattle trains from their native Ukraine to Siberia. “The Soviet regime shipped thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses into exile. Now the over 11,000 Witnesses in Moscow may well be forced underground.”
“The Moscow City (Appeal) Court was the last clear right of appeal in Russia,” stated defense lawyer Artur Leontyev. “This case is now in the jurisdiction of the European Court.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights in December 2001. That application concerns this very case as well as the refusal of the City of Moscow Department of Justice to reregister Jehovah’s Witnesses. In June 2003, acting on that application, the European Court submitted questions to the Russian government regarding its treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Moscow. Today’s ruling was issued as a result of a civil complaint filed with the court in April 20, 1998, by the Prosecutor’s Office of the Northern Administrative Circuit of the city of Moscow. On February 23, 2001, the complaint was dismissed by Judge Yelena I. Prokhorycheva of the Golovinsky court as having “no basis whatsoever.” A retrial was ordered on an appeal by the Prosecutor. The second trial lasted almost three years with Judge Dubinskaya of the same court issuing the ruling to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses in Moscow on March 26, 2004.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are an internationally recognized Christian religion with more than 133,000 members in Russia. They are legally recognized in more than 150 countries, including all 25 member states of the European Union. The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly declared Jehovah’s Witnesses to be a “known religion” and entitled to protection under the European Convention on Human Rights.
Contact: J. R. Brown, telephone: (718) 560-5600