For Immediate Release
April 8, 2010
Russia—lawful or unlawful?
Results of expert studies reveal significant discrepancy on view of Christian literature
YEKATERINBURG, Russia—There exists “no basis” for saying that publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses contain signs of “propaganda, exclusivity or inferiority of a person on the basis of his attitude toward religion,” according to a recent court-appointed religious expert study in Asbest, Russia. Regarding such Christian literature, the study found that it does not “go beyond what is a common phenomenon for the entire religious community which is more or less typical of all religious confessions.” The conclusions of that study were affirmed by religious experts from a second study who further stated regarding the publications under scrutiny that, “neither do they contain incitement to religious discord or to actions against religion, nation or individuals representing the latter.”
Both expert conclusions were commissioned in relation to a criminal case brought against a member of the local religious organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Asbest, Sverdlovsk Region, initiated in June 19, 2008. Criminal charges were dropped on March 3, 2010, in response to the findings of the expert studies.
Among the publications in which the experts from the Asbest study did not find anything extremist in nature are three that had already been pronounced as “extremist materials” in the September 11, 2009, decision of the Rostov Regional Court and that have since been placed on the Ministry of Justice Extremist Materials List. Such contradictions highlight an inconsistency in Russia’s prosecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses. There is disagreement among court appointed experts whether the literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses should be pronounced as “extremist material.” Meanwhile, harassment and arrests of the Witnesses continue in many regions.
Mr. Vasily Kalin, Chairman of the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, noted: “In various regions of Russia attempts are being made to instigate criminal cases against Jehovah’s Witnesses. But the fact that there are no grounds for the accusations is confirmed by unbiased and qualified specialists. Jehovah’s Witnesses proclaim good news from the Bible because they want to share information that brings joy and comfort to people. The ultimate decision on who has the truth belongs to God and not to the State.”
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