The Ministry of Justice is seeking to liquidate the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses on claims that Jehovah’s Witnesses are promoting extremist ideology and activities.
Supreme Court Judge Yuri Ivanenko declared the denomination’s Administrative Center, its head office in Russia, an “extremist organization” and, on that basis, ordered the Jehovah’s Witnesses group in Russia “dissolved” and its activities banned.
In 2006, Russia changed its definition of extremism, eliminating the requirement for violence or hatred, but saying the criteria included “incitement of … religious discord.”
Russia blocked the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ international website two years ago over alleged extremism, and the group’s Bibles were banned last year.
The Ministry of Justice has been inspecting congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia since 2008 but did not find any extremist activity in them, a point acknowledged by attorneys for the Ministry of Justice.
During the trial, the Ministry of Justice’s attorneys could not specify a legal basis for targeting the Administrative Center for liquidation or any extremist action on the part of either the Administrative Center or any Local Religious Organizations (LROs) used by Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia.
The Witnesses plan to appeal this decision.