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  1. Cant see this under Russian news yet:
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  2. An appeal against a ban of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia has been set by the country’s Supreme Court for July 17. The liquidation of the Christian denomination’s 395 local religious chapters in the country was put in place by Russia’s justice ministry in March and upheld by the country’s Supreme Court on April 20. After receiving the court’s written decision, the group launched an appeal a month later. The Supreme Court accepted the justice ministry’s verdict that Jehovah’s Witnesses violated Russia’s anti-extremism law, putting it into the same category as organizations like the Islamic State group (ISIS). Among the arguments used in the court hearing were that Jehovah’s Witnesses' belief in refusing blood transfusions made it extremist. That stance has been credited with encouraging doctors to develop less risky alternatives to using blood. The group has alleged that it was prohibited from mounting a real defense in the Supreme Court case. Notably, it criticized the judge for refusing to hear evidence concerning bans of its local religious chapters. “The basis for the liquidation of our organization’s center was totally based on the ban of local religious organizations,” Yaroslav Sivulskiy, a spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, told Newsweek recently. “All cases were fabricated and on that fabricated evidence now you want to ban the whole religion in Russia? How is it not connected to the case?” A big part of the appeal will rest on trying to get that evidence heard, Sivulskiy added. Participants attend a hearing on the justice ministry request to ban the Jehovah's Witnesses at Russia's Supreme Court in Moscow on April 20.VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/GETTY IMAGES Yet the group, which has operated in the country since 1991 and counts 175,000 members among its ranks, has said it does not hold out much hope that the decision will be overturned. “Very, very little [hope],” Sivulskiy said. “Usually the court decision is upheld in most cases. There’s little hope. We have some hope of course. It’s clear that there is no case from the ministry of justice’s side. But from our side, it is well based on law, with solid arguments.” The ban, Sivulskiy suggested, was not based on the interpretation of the court, but on a decision that goes right to the top of Russia’s government and President Vladimir Putin. “It’s not this court, it’s not about justice, it’s not about a fair court hearing because even everyone who observed it said we won already, but even so we lost,” he said. “We have no big hope for the next level, only if some political wind will change somehow.” Speaking after the Supreme Court decision, the chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), Thomas J. Reese, told Newsweek that it represented the “paranoia” in the Russian government. Since the decision, Jehovah's Witnesses have reported being harassed by police, while a Danish citizen was arrested after taking part in a private worship service and faces up to 10 years in prison.
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  3. MOSCOW, May 26 (RAPSI) – The Supreme Court of Russia has upheld a ruling declaring a branch of Jehovah’s Witnesses religious organization in Cherkessk extremist and liquidating it, RAPSI learnt in the courtroom on Friday. The court has dismissed an appeal against the February 10 ruling of the Supreme Court of the Karachay-Cherkessia Republic. In addition to the organization’s declared extremist status and it liquidation, its real estate property was ruled to be transferred to the state. On Friday, this ruling came into force. On April 20, Russia’s Supreme Court banned the Administrative Centre of Jehovah's Witnesses as extremist organization. According to the ruling, the Centre and its local branches are to be liquidated. The Justice Ministry said that violations of the law “On Combatting Extremism” had been revealed during inspection conducted in the organization. The Prosecutor General’s Office’s notice concerning inadmissibility of carrying out extremist activities by Jehovah's Witnesses has taken effect, the Ministry said. Jehovah’s Witnesses religious organization has had many legal problems in Russia. Since 2009, 95 materials distributed by the organization in the country have been declared extremist and 8 Jehovah's Witnesses’ branches have been liquidated, according to the Justice Ministry. Jehovah's Witnesses is an international religious organization based in Brooklyn, New York. Since 2004 several branches and chapters of the organization were banned and shut down in various regions of Russia.
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  4. The organization faces a ban in all of Russia The supreme court in Russia’s Karachay-Cherkessia declared the local Jehovah’s Witnesses an extremist organization on February 10 and ordered for it to be dissolved and its property forfeited to the state. Earlier, the republic’s prosecutor office had accused the organization of producing and disseminating extremist materials. The Witnesses were then forced to pay a fine and had their literature seized, however, as they wouldn’t give up what the prosecutor’s office referred to as “extremist activity”, the matter was taken to court. The Russian prosecutor general’s crackdown on Jehovah’s Witnesses started with a notice of “unacceptability of extremist activity” sent to the organization’s management last April. Citing religious discrimination, JW representatives appealed against the notice. However, Moscow’s city court on January 16 upheld it, ordering the organisation to “fix the violations” unless it wanted to be banned on the entire territory of the Russian Federation. Seven of JW’s regional branches have been closed down in Russia by courts. In the southern Russian city of Taganrog, 16 Witnesses were convicted for failing to comply with the ban. Four criminal cases have recently been launched against several members of the organization for “inciting hatred” and “creating a non-commercial entity violating citizens’ rights”. In 2005, a Moscow court ordered the dissolution of the capital’s JW community. In 2010, the European Court for Human Rights found the court in violation of the European convention. And in 2015, the community finally had its registration resumed. There are 100 to 150 thousand Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. The Christian denomination emerged from the Bible Student movement, founded in 1872 by Charles Russel. It reports a worldwide membership of more than eight million adherents.
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  5. The government’s decision on the ban in Russia of the centre’s activities of the organization «Jehovah’s Witnesses», recognized as extremist, will lead to a sharp decrease in the number of its followers and protect their civil rights. This opinion was expressed on Wednesday at a meeting in the state Duma the famous Russian antisectarian expert, the President of the Russian Association of centers for the study of religions and sects (RACERS) Alexander Dvorkin. Russia’s Supreme court on 20 April as extremist activity «administrative center of Jehovah’s witnesses in Russia» — the main organization of «Jehovah’s Witnesses» in Russia. Sun has banned the work of the centre and confiscated his property. Now the followers of «Jehovah’s Witnesses» are threatened by criminal responsibility for the continuation of its activities. The representatives of «Jehovah’s Witnesses» have declared intention to appeal this decision to the European court of human rights. «We are now seeing is very tough and aggressive attack on Russia, which was, in all respects, and it is connected with the process of «Jehovah’s Witnesses». We try to imagine this kind of struggle with faith. But this is not a struggle with faith, because the state cannot regulate who to believe, and in this case the government does not adjust: none of the members of the «Jehovah’s Witnesses» is not forbidden to practice their faith,» said Dvorkin at the meeting of interfractional Deputy group in protection of Christian values. According to him, the question in this case is «about rights organization», which is now closed, and the «enormous cash flows to arrive, suppressed.» «And then, if you want — come together on the flats, discuss their faith, no you will not interfere. But I am absolutely convinced that it will take several years, and the number of members dramatically, twice, three times — will fall. Because when you cut off the financial basis, the ability to freely, easily recruiting other people to rent large halls and so forth, that, in fact, people will lose interest and very quickly begin to diverge. In this sense, this decision is correct and far-sighted», — said the expert. Assessment Dvorkin, the Russian justice Ministry, taking the lead on the elimination of the parent organization «Jehovah’s Witnesses» primarily aimed «to protect the civil rights of members of this organization.» As noted antisectarian expert, «Jehovah’s Witnesses» do not recognize the fundamentals of the constitutional system of the Russian Federation, forbidding his followers to serve in the army and participate in elections. Members of the organization are involved in it «through deceit» and then «are deprived of basic human rights.» The organization has a de facto ban on a number of professions, as well as, according to Dworkin, on higher education: «they call it a «strongly not recommended to graduate»». «In «Jehovah’s Witnesses» carry out strict control over every step of the activities of the members of the organization are governed even the most intimate moments of married life, spouses are required to report on each other. Everything, every member of the organization must constantly monitor each other, to spy, to write denunciations,» said antisectarian expert. According to him, there are special dossier on each of its members, which, «incidentally, as far as I know, all sent to the headquarters of the organization in the United States.» «I have faced many times and tried to speak different the so-called human rights organizations, which, again, often sponsored from abroad, that there are specific cases of people who suffered from sects, but they do not do. That is, in fact, the struggle for human rights is replaced by the struggle for the rights of organizations that violate these human rights. This, then, is not advocacy, but just the opposite,» said Dvorkin.
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  6. 21 religious and terrorists organizations banned in Kyrgyzstan , 17 May 2017, AKIPRESS.COM - 21 religious and terrorists organizations are banned in Kyrgyzstan, Deputy Chairman of the State Commission for Religious Affairs Zakir Chotayev said. Most of them are banned as terrorist and extremist organizations, destructive organizations, Witnesses'ology, the Unification Church (the Moon Church) and the Akromiya religious movement, he said. On May 16, the Parliament Committee for International Affairs, Defense and Security discussed the questions concerning religion, extremism. The State Commission for Religious Affairs proposes to prohibit practicing davaat (visiting houses to spread the religious ideas). The respective draft law was proposed by Chotayev.
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  7. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (a branch of the Russian Orthodox Church) can be de facto banned in Ukraine. And this is more than half of all parishes of the ROC. The Church will be deprived of most of its flock and influence and will cease to be the largest Orthodox church in the world. Patriarch Kirill hurriedly wrote letters to world leaders asking for help. "Such restrictive religious legislation did not work in Ukraine even during the communist regime, and in the rest of Europe something like this existed only during Nazi rule in Germany," Kirill said. The new laws will become "a blatant example of the violation of human rights to freedom of religious confession," the patriarch is indignant. Earlier the temples of the UOC-MP had already been subjected to seizures, acts of vandalism, attacked and beaten the believers. Laws do not work? The rights are not respected? Terrible situation? Of course. And now it will intensify. "All of the above arguments in defense of the Orthodox in Ukraine - in practice, the proof of the arguments in defense of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia", writes the religious expert Dmitry Klyachin. The patriarch asks for protection, in particular, for Angela Merkel, whose opinion about the persecution of Jehovah's patriarchal witnesses was completely uninterested. We will not gloat, but it is impossible not to remember: "Do not dig another pit ..."
  8. The office of the Ministry of justice’s Penza region have stopped activity of all four local religious organizations of «Jehovah’s Witnesses» after the Supreme court’s decision banning the work of the main center of the organization in Russia, has informed a press-management service. According to authorities, on the basis of the operative part of the decision of the armed forces office of the Ministry of justice adopted the decision on the termination of two local organizations of «Jehovah’s Witnesses» in Penza, as well as one in the cities of Zarechnyy and Nikolsk. «Documents sent to the office of the Federal tax service of the Penza region to the relevant entry in the Unified state register of legal entities», — stated in the message. Russia’s Supreme court on 20 April as extremist activity «administrative center of Jehovah’s witnesses in Russia» — the main organization of «Jehovah’s Witnesses» in Russia. Sun has banned the work of the centre and confiscated his property. Now the followers of «Jehovah’s Witnesses» are threatened by criminal responsibility for the continuation of its activities. The representatives of «Jehovah’s Witnesses» have declared intention to appeal this decision to the European court of human rights.
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  9. The future for Jehovah's Witnesses WITHOUT WITNESSES: HOW WILL JEHOVISTS LIVE AFTER THE BAN IN RUSSIA? "Telegraf" found out what adherents of the Jehovah's Witnesses and experts think with regard to the ban of their activity in Russia by Dmitry Matveev Telegraf, 28 April 2017 On 20 April, the Russian Supreme Court found the activity of the "Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia" to be extremist and banned its work. Not long before that, the Russian Ministry of Justice put a stop to the work of the central office of the Jehovah's Witnesses organization because of rulings that 95 of the books the organization distributes are extremist. Telegraf talked with adherents of the organization in Russia and abroad and found out how their life will change after the ban. Nobody compels people to become Jehovah's Witnesses by force; they come to the faith by themselves. Anton Chivchalov, an adherent of the Jehovah's Witnesses, described for Telegraf how he became acquainted with this teaching quite by accident back when he was a teenager and found their literature in the home of his grandmother. "It was in Ukraine, Lvov province, the city of Chervonograd. I was immediately attracted by the logic and reasonableness of the presentation. All this contrasted sharply with the perception of religion that I had before that: something gloomy, confused, mixed with strange rituals, 'for old ladies,' and so forth," Anton explained. He wrote a letter to the Jehovah's Witnesses' affiliate in Germany and requested literature, which he quickly received. Anton said that for some time he corresponded with believers from another city and then he began to study the Bible more seriously and to attend meetings, first in Ukraine and later in Russia. In 1996 he himself received baptism as a follower of the Jehovah's Witnesses. Originally he was attracted by the reasonableness, clarity, logic, and integrity in its teaching. "Before this, my religion was associated with stupidities like holy water which my grandmother fed me (incidentally, later she also became a Jehovah's Witness). But I unexpectedly discovered for myself that the Bible gives absolutely reasonable answers to important questions and formulates an integral and logical picture of the world. For example, before that I did not find anywhere a more logical explanation for the nature of evil than in the Bible," Anton Chivchalov explained. He added that if one speaks about Jehovah's Witnesses as people, then he sees among them genuine Christian qualities. "These are brotherly love, mutual help, a serious attitude to the study of the Bible, treating it as a handbook and guide for all areas of life, and zeal in the work of evangelism. All of this is today in great deficit among other Christian churches," Anton explained. The follower of Jehovah's Witnesses said that in his family people are sufficiently educated to be able to respect the religious convictions of other people. "My grandmother and my younger brother also became Jehovah's Witnesses and my mother is now actively interested in the faith," he explained. "Jehovah's Witnesses will submit an appeal of the decision of the Supreme Court, including in the European Court for Human Rights, and therefore not everything is so unambiguous. "If there is an unfavorable outcome for us, we will not be able to conduct large worship services and we will not be able to use the houses of worship that we built, nor to import literature. Of course, in a law-based state in the 21st century, freedom of religious confession should not look like that," Anton considers. At the same time, he thinks that the matter will not come to mass imprisonments, but it may come to mass fines, warnings from prosecutors, acts of vandalism, dismissals from work, confiscations, humiliations in law enforcement agencies and insults. "Unfortunately all this has already begun, even before the decision of the Supreme Court. Here much will depend on the position of specific officials in places," Anton Chivchalov explained. He said that our government thinks that law enforcement agencies should hunt for defenseless women with Bibles and not catch criminals. Anton explained that he has no fear. "We try to remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: 'They persecuted me and they will persecute you also.' Each person, coming to Christian faith, should be psychologically prepared for persecution. And Jehovah's Witnesses do not entertain historical experience; after all we went through much more severe soviet and hitlerian repressions," Anton explained. "What do I feel? I feel great responsibility to do all that I can in order to help my brothers and sisters in Russia, to sanctify God's name and establish his kingdom. This is the main thing that we do in whatever country we live in and in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. This is what always unites us as a world brotherhood," the follower of Jehovah's Witnesses summed up. The ban of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia shocked the world community. Sergei Afanasiev, an adherent of Jehovah's Witnesses living in Ukraine, said that the ban of the organization in Russia was a shocking experience for the whole world. Jehovah's Witnesses are known as peaceful citizens, who do not participate in political activity and categorically oppose violence. This means that the Jehovah's Witnesses do not have a political lobby and they are neutral and submit to any government. And it is for this reason that our situation in a country is a marker of religious liberty. Usually persecutions in authoritarian countries begin with Jehovah's Witnesses, but they never end with them," Sergei said. As regards citizens of Ukraine, the ban of Jehovah's Witnesses evoked diverse reactions. "Even those people who categorically disagree with the views of Jehovah's Witnesses condemned this ban and sympathize with Jehovah's Witnesses. Such people are the majority," Sergei explained. He said that it is still unknown when and which actions the government will take against Jehovah's Witnesses. "What is already now is they are sealing up buildings and believers who gather in their own homes for reading and discussing the Bible are issued prosecutorial warnings. That is, my fellow believers can expect very difficult times," he explained. Sergei does not think that the authorities will immediately start criminal prosecution of believers with real criminal sentences. For now public opinion or the reaction of the world community will not permit doing this. "However it is not necessary to imprison; Jehovah's Witnesses who wind up in the list of extremists will be deprived of work, the right to business activity, and the right to have bank accounts and to get credit. This is quite enough in order to turn peaceful and honest citizens into outcasts," he says. Jehovah's Witnesses are law-abiding and they respect authority, whatever it is and however they are treated. Sergei Afanasiev says that followers of the teaching will not organize pickets or protest demonstrations. They will not be saboteurs, spies, terrorists, or pests. They will continue to be peaceful and honest people, and the only opposition will consist in their continuing to believe, gather together, fellowship, and speak about their faith with others. He said that if Jehovah's Witnesses are imprisoned, they will be model prisoners. "This is known from historical experience. In nazi camps, Jehovah's Witnesses accepted the rules of camp order as the law of the state and they obeyed them very precisely, but without violating their own principles. The Jehovah's Witness Elza Abt, a prisoner of Auschwitz, wrote in her memoirs that during the evacuation of the camp in January 1945, she and other women Jehovah's Witnesses were put on an ordinary passenger train. The convoy allowed them to occupy seats in various cars and practically did not guard them. They did not know the locality and they accidentally missed the station where they were supposed to transfer to another train. If they had escaped, nobody would look for them. But Elza and several of her fellow believers turned themselves in to the first SS they met and were put into the right camp. If they had acted differently, it would have placed the lives of hundreds of their fellow believers at risk," Sergei Afanasiev said. He added that all Jehovah's Witnesses' property is supposed to be confiscated. But the Kingdom Halls that the Jehovah's Witnesses use have various forms of ownership and some of them belong to foreign legal entities. That is, confiscating immovable property will not be as simple as the Ministry of Justice suggests. Practically all the buildings that the Jehovah's Witnesses use were built by the adherents themselves and wth their donations. "In light of this, confiscation of the property of religious organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses will possibly seem even more savage and blasphemous than the confiscation of property from the Orthodox Church after 1917," Sergei Afanasiev summed up. The ban of the Jehovah's Witnesses was a purely political decision, and the Russian Orthodox Church had nothing to do with it. "As regards possible pressure on the political authorities on the part of the RPTs, the dominant religious tradition in the country, which has a ramified structure, with the aim of eliminating competitors and changing the general cultural and world view field, and the public space and information field is saturated with these speculations. I think that they all are far from the truth, and on the "political" level everything is not so far," Viliam Shmidt, a professor of the Russian Academy of State Service and a religious studies scholar, explained for Telegraf. The expert said that adherents of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia are not as many as adherents of religiosity that is untraditional for Russia on the whole. "For the RPTs it would be more desirable if such small, untraditional religions did not have the status of 'religious,' but this is impossible, the religious studies scholar explained. In the event of a ban, Jehovah's Witnesses will go underground. "What is expected from the Jehovah's Witnesses after the ban? A rather strange question. What can one expect from 'fundamentalist' pacifists? They will live as before, to be sure now without the right of public associations. A large portion of them will find themselves in a compulsory shadow, in 'the religious underground,' as it was in the soviet period, when religious traditions were fought as public worldview vestiges. In the 21st century, fighting with ideas, not of a social and political order but of a metaphysical one, at the state level, is unfortunately extremely vulgar political views and practices," Viliam Shmidt concluded. (tr. by PDS, posted 1 May 2017)
  10. Russian parliament notices American concern for Jehovah's Witnesses U.S.A. THREATENS RUSSIA WITH NEW SANCTIONS BECAUSE OF BAN OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES Parlamentskaia Gazeta, 29 April 2017 The federal commission on religious liberty of the U.S.A. came to a conclusion about the necessity of including Russia among countries "evoking special concern" because of violation of citizens' rights to freedom on conscience, TASS reports. In the annual report presented by the commission, it is noted that Russia for the first time has been included in the list of countries in which international nongovernmental organizations have identified cases of incidents of violations of religious liberty "bearing a systematic and continual character." The accusations of American public leaders arose also because of the fact that Moscow, in their opinion, has tried to determine the policy of freedom of conscience in the territory of a neighboring state, interfering in the discussion of the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the so-called Kiev patriarchate. The authors of the document also express concern in connection with the ruling in Russia of the community of Jehovah's Witnesses to be an extremist organization. Considering the aforementioned incidents, members of the commission consider the possibility of appealing to American authorities to recommend effecting a change in Moscow's position by using individual sanctions of a humanitarian nature. The U.S.A. Commission for Religious Liberty represents itself as a bi-partisan consultative agency within the federal American government, which is authorized to make political recommendations to the head of state, the secretary of state, and members of Congress. (tr. by PDS, posted 30 April 2017)
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  11. MARCH 21, 2017 RUSSIA, Jehovah’s Witnesses Mobilize Global Response to Threat of Ban in Russia ! Make your participation a matter of prayer.—1 Tim. 2:1-4. Personal letters should be mailed no later than April 1, 2017. Send a personal letter to one or more of the officials listed at the end of these instructions. You may send more than one letter to the same official: scroll down to the ADDRESSES.... NEW YORK—Threatened with an imminent ban on their worship in Russia, Jehovah’s Witnesses are responding with a direct appeal to Kremlin and Supreme Court officials for relief through a global letter-writing campaign. The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses is inviting the over 8,000,000 Witnesses worldwide to participate. On March 15, 2017, Russia’s Ministry of Justice filed a claim with the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation to label the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia as extremist and liquidate it. The claim also seeks to ban the activities of the Administrative Center. If the Supreme Court upholds this claim, the Witnesses’ national headquarters near St. Petersburg will be shut down. Subsequently, some 400 registered Local Religious Organizations would be liquidated, outlawing the services of over 2,300 congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. The branch property, as well as places of worship used by Witnesses throughout the country, could be seized by the State. Additionally, individual Jehovah’s Witnesses would become subject to criminal prosecution for merely carrying out their worship activities. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the claim on April 5. “The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses wants to heighten attention to this critical situation,” states David A. Semonian, a spokesman at the Witnesses’ world headquarters. “Prosecuting non-violent, law-abiding citizens as if they were terrorists is clearly a misapplication of anti-extremist laws. Such prosecution is based on completely false grounds.” The Witnesses’ global campaign is not without precedent. Nearly 20 years ago, Witnesses wrote to defend their fellow worshippers in Russia in response to a smear campaign by some members of the government in power at the time. Additionally, Witnesses have initiated past letter-writing campaigns to motivate government officials to end persecution of Witnesses in other countries, including Jordan, Korea, and Malawi. “Reading the Bible, singing, and praying with fellow worshippers is clearly not criminal,” adds Mr. Semonian. “We hope that our global letter-writing campaign will motivate Russian officials to stop this unjustifiable action against our fellow worshippers.” Letter-Writing Campaign Supporting Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia Instruction Sheet March 20, 2017 Format  If you own a personal business, you may use business letterhead.  Use your own language. There is no need to have letters translated into Russian. If you are fluent in Russian, you may write letters in Russian.  Letters should be one page in length and should be typewritten or neatly handwritten.  Give attention to proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation.—be pp. 71-73.  Add your personal signature to the letter.  No copies of letters need to be sent to the elders, to the branch office, or to anyone else.  Literature should not be included.  Use your personal return address on the envelope. Be sure that the address of the official you are writing to matches that listed at the end of these instructions.  Send by postal mail with sufficient international postage. Do not use e-mail. Content.  You are writing to the official to request his intervention. Express the hope that the Russian authorities will stop the legal action being taken against the branch office and the congregations in Russia so that our brothers and sisters can continue to gather peacefully for Christian meetings without interference. You could express appreciation for the laws of the Russian government that guarantee freedom of religion to all citizens.  Letters should be candid but respectful. Summarize key facts in your own words. Letters may refer to one or two facts listed below or more recent information published on jw.org. Keep in mind that “a mild answer turns away rage,” and “a gentle tongue can break a bone.”—Prov. 15:1; 25:15.  You could briefly mention how our meetings and publications have benefited you personally and your family. Do not mention the names of individuals in Russia who are Jehovah’s Witnesses. Facts  On March 15, 2017, the Ministry of Justice in Russia filed a claim with the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation seeking “to declare the religious organization, the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses, extremist, ban its activity, and liquidate it.” A decision by the Supreme Court in favor of this claim will have dire consequences for all of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. The Administrative Center and 400 local legal entities used to own or rent Kingdom Halls would be dissolved. This means that the branch Instruction Sheet March 20, 2017 Page 2 property in St. Petersburg and Kingdom Halls throughout the country could be seized by the State. In addition, each of the more than 170,000 Witnesses could be criminally prosecuted merely for meeting for worship, reading the Bible together, or talking to others about their faith.  Russia’s “Federal Law on Extremist Activity” is being misapplied to Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. Jehovah’s Witnesses strive to be good citizens. We are known worldwide for our peaceful activities, and under no circumstances would we ever resort to any activity that could legitimately be construed as “extremist” or criminal in nature.  The activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the publications that we produce encourage love of God and neighbor, love for family, and respect for government. There is absolutely nothing “extremist” or criminal in such Bible-based publications. Addresses:  President of Russia Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin 23 Ilyinka Str. - Moscow Russian Federation 103132  Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev 2 Krasnopresnenskaya Naberezhnaya Moscow Russian Federation 103274  Prosecutor General Yury Yakovlevich Chayka Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation 15A Bolshaya Dmitrovka Str. Moscow Russian Federation GSP-3 125993  Minister of Justice Alexander Vladimirovich Konovalov Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation 14 Zhitnaya Str. Moscow Russian Federation GSP-1 119991  Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation 32/34 Smolenskaya-Sennaya Square Moscow Russian Federation 119200  The Chairman of the Supreme Court Viacheslav Mikhailovich Lebedev Supreme Court of Russian Federation 15 Povarskaya Str. Moscow Russian Federation 121069
  12. The U.S. State Department has condemned the Russian ban on Jehovah's Witnesses. "The United States is extremely concerned by the Russian government's actions targeting and repressing members of religious minorities, including Jehovah's Witnesses, under the pretense of combating extremism," Acting State Department spokesman Mark C. Toner told U.S. News by email late Thursday night. Earlier Thursday, the Russian Supreme Court called the pacifist religious sect extremist and ordered the shuttering of more than 300 chapters in the country. "We call on the Russian authorities to ensure that Russia's anti-terrorism and anti-extremism legislation is not misused to target members of peaceful religious minorities, including the Jehovah's Witnesses," Toner said. "The prosecution of peaceful religious minority groups for 'extremism' creates a climate of fear which itself undermines efforts to combat the threat of radicalization." Russian prosecutors had argued in court that the group is "a threat to the rights of the citizens, public order and public security." The Justice Ministry showed pamphlets from the group that it argued posed "a threat to health." But the U.S. questioned the legal underpinning of such a ban. "Freedom of religion is critical to a peaceful, inclusive, stable, and thriving society. All religious minorities should be able to enjoy freedom of religion and assembly without interference, as guaranteed by the Russian Federation's constitution," Toner said. The Jehovah's Witnesses say they will appeal, within the appellate division of the Russian Supreme Court, and possibly to the European Court of Human Rights. Corrected on April 21, 2017: This story has been updated to reflect the Russian court's actions and Toner's response took place on Thursday.
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  14. Why banning the Jehovah’s Witnesses won’t work for Russia BY EMILY B. BARAN APRIL 20TH 2017 The Supreme Court of Russia has a decision to make this week about whether to label the Jehovah’s Witnesses an extremist organization and liquidate its assets. This act would transform the religious community into a criminal network, and make individual Witnesses vulnerable to arrest simply for speaking about their faith with others. While the court case has attracted recent media attention, this move is the culmination of two decades of increasing state hostility to Witnesses. In the late 1990s, Moscow took the Witnesses to court to deny them legal standing in the city limits. After several years of court hearings, the city banned the organization. In more recent years, anti-extremism laws drafted in the wake of domestic terrorism have been turned against Witness magazines and books. Currently, over eighty publications have been placed on the federal list of extremist materials. Even their website is now illegal. So is My Book of Bible Stories, an illustrated book for children, listed alongside publications by terrorist organizations. If the state criminalizes the Witnesses, it will represent a major deterioration in religious toleration in post-Soviet Russia. It will also put Russia at odds with the European Court of Human Rights, which has repeatedly ruled in favor of the Witnesses in the past two decades. It may make other minority faiths vulnerable to similar legal challenges. In the 1990s, scholars spoke of a newly opened religious marketplace, in which post-Soviet citizens, freed from the constraints of state-enforced atheism, shopped around among the faith traditions. It is fair to say that these days, this marketplace has fewer customers, fewer stalls, and more regulations. If history is any guide, Russia will find it nearly impossible to eliminate Jehovah’s Witnesses. Soviet dissident author Vladimir Bukovsky once admiringly wrote of the Witnesses’ legendary persistence under ban. When the Soviet Union barred religious literature from crossing its borders, Witnesses set up underground bunkers to print illegal magazines for their congregations. When Soviet officials prohibited Witnesses from hosting religious services, they gathered in small groups in their apartments, often in the middle of the night. Sometimes they snuck away to nearby woods or out onto the vast steppe, where they could meet with less scrutiny. When the state told believers that they could not evangelize their faith to others, Witnesses chatted up their neighbors, coworkers, and friends. When these actions landed them in labor camps, Witnesses sought out converts among their fellow prisoners. Witnesses are certain to revive many of these tactics if placed in similar circumstances in the future. Moreover, technology makes it far more difficult for Russia to control the religious practices of its citizens. Although the Witnesses’ official website is no longer available in Russia, individual members can easily share religious literature through email or dozens of other social media platforms and apps. While Soviet Witnesses had to write coded reports and hand-deliver them through an underground courier network, Witnesses today can text this information in seconds. Technology will also facilitate meeting times for religious services in private homes. The Russian government simply does not have the manpower to enforce its own ban. It is hard to imagine that local officials could effectively prevent over 170,000 people across more than 2,000 congregations from gathering together multiple times per week, as Witnesses do worldwide. The case of Taganrog is instructive. Several hundred Witnesses lived there in 2009, when the city declared the organization illegal. A few years later, it convicted sixteen Witnesses for ignoring the ban and continuing to gather their congregations for services. The state spent over a year in investigations and court hearings for sixteen people, a tiny fraction of the total congregation, and then suspended the sentences and fines rather than waste more resources in following through on its punishment guidelines. There are not enough police officers in Russia to monitor the daily activities of each and every Witness, and the Witnesses know it. Under a ban, everyone will face more scrutiny, a few will be dealt more serious consequences, and most will continue practicing their faith regardless. Russia may nonetheless decide that all of this conflict is worth it. After all, Soviet officials were fairly successful in relegating Witnesses to the margins of society. Few Russians will complain if Witnesses no longer come to knock on their door. After all, even Americans rarely have kind words for religious missionaries at their own doorsteps. In my own research, I have never heard a single Russian, other than a scholar, say anything positive about Witnesses. For the record, my experience with Americans has been similar. On a more basic level, Russian citizens may not even notice the Witnesses’ absence from public life. While the post-Soviet period saw a religious revival for all faiths, far fewer joined the Witnesses than the Russian Orthodox Church. For all their recent growth in membership, the Witnesses remain a tiny minority in a largely secular society. The vocal determination of Witnesses not to acquiesce to state demands should not cause observers to overlook the very real damage a ban would do to this community. Yes, Witnesses have faced similar challenges before and have dealt with them. For decades, they held their baptisms in local rivers and lakes under cover of night. In the post-Soviet period, new members were finally able to celebrate their baptisms in full view of their fellow believers at public conventions. A long-time Witness who attended one of these events in the early 1990s recalled, “What happiness, what freedom!” A new ban would mean a return to this underground life, to a hushed ceremony in cold waters. This is not what freedom of conscience looks like in modern states. Emily B. Baran is the author of Dissent on the Margins: How Jehovah’s Witnesses Defied Communism and Lived to Preach About It. Her work explores the shifting contours of dissent and freedom in the Soviet Union and its successor states. She is Assistant Professor of History at Middle Tennessee State University.
  15. Russia’s Supreme Court Begins High-Profile Case Against Jehovah’s Witnesses NEW YORK—Today, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation began consideration of a claim from the Ministry of Justice to liquidate the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. The Court announced a recess, and the hearing will resume Thursday, April 6, 2017, at 2:00 p.m. The Witnesses had filed a counterclaim with the Court on March 30, 2017, against the Ministry of Justice. Today, however, the counterclaim was dismissed by the Court prior to the recess of the hearing. The Court also refused to allow experts to testify about the basis for the claim of the Ministry of Justice and refused to allow those who witnessed the falsification of evidence against local religious organizations of Jehovah’s Witnesses to testify. The high-profile nature of the case is sparking coverage by international news outlets, including an article in Time magazine posted online on April 4 (“Russian Supreme Court Considers Outlawing Jehovah’s Witness Worship”) and a front-page article in the print edition of The New York Times (“Pacifist, Christian and Threatened by Russian Ban as ‘Extremist’”) on April 5. “We certainly hope that Russia’s Supreme Court will uphold the rights of our fellow believers in Russia to freely carry out their peaceful worship,” adds David A. Semonian, a spokesman at the Witnesses’ world headquarters in New York. “Millions of people around the world will be watching carefully to see how the case progresses and if Russia acts to protect its own law-abiding citizens who are Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
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  16. Baku. April 10. INTERFAX – the state Committee for work with religious organizations in cooperation with law enforcement bodies of Azerbaijan have stopped the illegal activities of members of the sect “Jehovah’s Witnesses”, the press service of the Ministry. “GCRs together with law enforcement bodies held on 9 April on the territory of Garadagh district of Baku swift action on two addresses. As a result of the activities was identified and stopped an illegal meeting of members of nontraditional religious movements “Jehovah’s Witnesses”, – stated in the message. It is noted that out of 33 participants of meetings in two locations ten were young children. In addition, were found and withdrawn in a large amount of propaganda literature of “Jehovah’s Witnesses”. The investigation is ongoing.
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  17. now translated in english (from russian) download
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    (for our archives): russiareport_proof-3.pdf
  18. APRIL 6, 2017 RUSSIA Russia’s Supreme Court Will Resume Hearing on April 7 in the Case to Ban Jehovah’s Witnesses The Russian Federation Supreme Court hearing today began with the Ministry of Justice arguing that it is necessary to ban all the legal entities of Jehovah’s Witnesses because lower court decisions have concluded that some engaged in extremist activity. The judge then asked the representative of the Ministry of Justice how the actions of the 8 impugned entities can justify action against the Administrative Center and all 395 entities in Russia. The judge also asked how liquidating all the entities would affect the worship of the Witnesses, and he repeatedly asked how the Witnesses are a threat to public order and safety. Lawyers for the defense also posed questions that exposed the intent of the Ministry of Justice to ban the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses, not merely to liquidate their legal entities. The hearing will reconvene on April 7, 2017, at 10:00 a.m. Russia’s Supreme Court Will Resume Hearing on April 7.pdf
  19. APRIL 7, 2017 RUSSIA On Third Day of Russian Supreme Court Case, Jehovah’s Witnesses Present Testimony NEW YORK—The third day of the hearing before the Russian Supreme Court has concluded, and the Court has declared a recess until Wednesday, April 12, 2017, at 10:00 a.m. During today’s proceedings, the Court heard the testimony of four of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who presented key arguments against the Ministry of Justice’s claim to liquidate the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses and ban their activities. The judge directed multiple questions toward the Ministry of Justice, asking them to produce evidence regarding their accusations that Jehovah’s Witnesses are extremists and distribute extremist literature. The Ministry of Justice was unable to do so. Vasiliy Kalin, a member of the presiding committee for the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, stated while addressing the Court: “I want to remind the Ministry of Justice that your request to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses would hurt the very people who wish you a peaceful, happy life.” Media Contacts: International: David A. Semonian, Office of Public Information, +1-845-524-3000 Russia: Yaroslav Sivulskiy, +7-911-087-8009 Jehovah’s Witnesses Present Testimony on Third Day of Russian Supreme Court Case.pdf
  20. APRIL 7, 2017 RUSSIA Hearings Continue for a Third Day in the Case to Ban Jehovah’s Witnesses The Russian Federation Supreme Court continued hearings for a third day in the case to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. Among others who testified, two directors of the Administrative Center presented objections to the Ministry of Justice’s claim against Jehovah’s Witnesses. Sergey Cherepanov objected to the Ministry’s demand that the Administrative Center stop violations of the extremism law. However, the Ministry never clarified how the Administrative Center allegedly violated the law or how it could eliminate violations. Another director, Vasiliy Kalin, observed that the Administrative Center has been active for 26 years, and asked: “At what point did we become extremists?” He added that Jehovah’s Witnesses have not changed—they obey the authorities and always adhere to principles of peace. He expressed his concern that persecution of the Witnesses has already begun. The judge set the hearing to continue on April 12, 2017, at 10:00 a.m. Hearings Continue for a Third Day in the Case to Ban Jehovah’s Witnesses.pdf

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