This move was justified by a Russian Supreme Court ruling

The St. Petersburg located Kolomyazhskiy Assembly Hall owned and used by Jehovah’s Witnesses saw Russian authorities strong-arming into the property and seizing it. Government agents cordoned off the Hall and wrested control. The building was not damaged during the action. No members of Jehovah’s Witnesses were injured during this raid.

This raid and seizure by the Russian Government marks the biggest property seized. The license to do so is provided by a Russian Supreme Court ruling. The Appellate Chamber of Supreme Court of Russian Federation ruled on July 17, 2017, that the government should liquidate all legal entities of the Witnesses all over Russia. The ruling also banned all activities by the religious group. It also asked the Kremlin to seize all properties owned by the Witnesses.

The seating capacity of the Assembly Hall is 1,500. The hall is used as a venue for larger sized religious meetings. The space was also used by local congregations post its renovation in 2002. The attorneys working for Witnesses came to know that the authorities involved in the seizure have re-registered the property. The latter was then owned by the Russian Federation. Soon after the seizure, Kremlin transferred the property to a health center located nearby. The center soon posted its sign on the gate.

This seizure comes only a week after the court ruling that threatens to take over all properties owned by the Witnesses. The latter uses such properties as their national headquarters. This property is among many on the list. The organization has a number of properties in the vicinity of St. Petersburg. This ruling by the Russian Supreme Court had canceled a contract made between Pennsylvania’s Bible and Tract Society and Russia’s national headquarter. The contract was 17 years old. If the ruling holds, then the Russian Government can easily seize this particular property and all other Witness properties as per foreign ownership with Russia.

According to Jehovah’s Witnesses, the actions done by the Kremlin smacks of gross religious intolerance. These actions have deprived the organization, as per them, of not only property but also religious freedom. They said that the properties were bought with donations given by the Russian citizenry who can only be described as poor. The Witnesses have appealed to UN Human Rights Committee and European Court of Human Rights.

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