Proceedings on whether to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia were heard for the third day on Friday.
Today was day three of the ongoing hearing in Russia’s Supreme Court on banning the Jehovah’s Witness religious organization in Russia.
The court will be in recess until next Wednesday, April 12.
In 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.
Here is a selection of quotes from the hearing, as provided by the Jehovah’s Witness Office of Public Information.
"The brochure, Listen to God: It barely has any printed information. It contains pictures and Bible verses and a few brief expressions. What could be extremist in the brochure? The FSB pointed to one phrase in the publication: 'Avoid bad behavior.'" – Attorney for Jehovah's Witnesses, Victor Zhenkov
"What about the book, Benefit from Theocratic Ministry School Education? This book is designed to improve speaking ability. We do not know on what basis it was declared extremist. The court did not allow Jehovah's Witnesses to participate in the case. We never had a chance to review the case materials. We never even were invited to participate in the trial. If all cases are considered in this way, Russia will be left without any books." – Attorney for Jehovah's Witnesses, Victor Zhenkov
"How do you incite hatred? Do you look at someone the wrong way? Say something the wrong way? Some experts have stated that since the publications of Jehovah's Witnesses state that they have the only true religion, Jehovah's Witnesses incite hatred and enmity." – Attorney for Jehovah's Witnesses, Victor Zhenkov
"It is not Jehovah's Witnesses that violate the law. It is the planting of fabricated evidence by the authorities that violates the law." – Committee member of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, Sergey Cherepanov
"The Prosecutor General, which in the 90s rehabilitated believers, has been gathering information about Jehovah's Witnesses and together with information on their property. This is proved by the volumes of documents presented along with the liquidation claim. This shows that the Prosecutor General has been coordinating a nationwide campaign to gather information on Jehovah's Witnesses. The same thing happened in the 1950s when our fellow believers were exiled to Siberia." – Committee member of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, Sergey Cherepanov
"If the court returns to the path offered by the Ministry of Justice to liquidate the Administrative Center and all LROs (Local Religious Organizations), we will return to the dark past. I like what one official said, 'You can liquidate a legal entity, but never someone’s faith.'" – Committee member of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia and victim of Soviet era repression, Vasiliy Kalin
"In Soviet times we were facing charges of being an 'enemy of the state'; now we are being charged with 'extremism.' 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." – Committee member of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia and victim of Soviet-era repression, Vasiliy Kalin