10/05/2009, 00.00
RUSSIA
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Altai court condemns Jehovah’s Witnesses for “extremism”

Some of the group’s publications are blamed for inciting religious confrontation. Jehovah’s Witnesses respond saying the texts in question are distributed in 200 countries around the world. The Altai court ruling is like one handed down in Rostov in mid-September. Similar trials are underway before other Russian courts.
Moscow (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A city court in the city of Gorno-Altaisk, Altai Republic, found the Jehovah’s Witnesses guilty of religious extremism. The sentence follows a similar decision handed down against the religious group in mid-September by a court in Rostov, which ruled that the group’s publications contain “extremist material” (see “Court in Rostov bans Jehovah’s Witnesses for being religious extremists,” AsiaNews, 17 September 2009). Altogether the court in the Siberian Republic banned 18 publications by the Jehovah’s Witnesses after they were submitted to expert analysis, which concluded they included incitement to religious confrontation.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses Administrative Centre in Moscow, which is recognised by Russian authorities, has already appealed the decision by the court in Gorno-Altaisk. However, the situation for the religious group is very delicate. The latest ruling comes in the wake of that in Rostov and before others expected in other regions of the Russian Federation, where legal proceedings are currently underway. The charge is the same: incitement of religious extremism.

The material in question is the same as those the group publishes and distributes across Europe and in about 200 countries around the world, in 176 different languages.

For the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the latest case represents another attack by the legal system  of  Russia’s republics. “Such a decision may lead to the legalisation of illegal actions against peaceful citizens who wish to worship God in accordance with their own conscience and the principles of the sacred scriptures, the Bible," the Jehovah’s Witnesses centre said.

The Christian group is among the most harassed religious minorities in the territories of the former Soviet Union.

Numbered at around 200,000, Jehovah’s Witnesses are accused across the Russian Federation of sectarianism, “religious extremism,” “incitement to social isolation,” and behaviours that undermine the civil life of the country.

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