03/27/2010, 00.00
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Deemed extremists and hostile, Jehovah's Witnesses’ assets seized, places of worship burnt

Bibles, books and computers are seized in Tambov. Members of the community continue to suffer from acts of violence. The Kingdom Hall in Budennovsk (Stavropol) is set on fire.
Moscow (AsiaNews) – Jehovah's Witnesses have again become the target of Russian police and courts. On 17 March, police agents stormed early in the morning a number of private homes in the city of Tambov (western Russia). Backed by a court order, they searched the premises and seized about a hundred books, including copies of the New Testament, computers and other electronic equipment, as well as printed material on the religious group’s activities.

According to police sources, documents inciting religious hatred were found among the seized literature. Many of the books taken are on the federal list of extremist materials, which was recently expanded to include new Jehovah's Witnesses publications.

The court issued the search warrant because of a recent case filed in accordance with Article 282 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation on the “Incitement of National, Racial, or Religious Enmity”.

Whilst this is happening, the community itself and its members are also being attacked. On the night of 20 March, a fire broke out in the Jehovah's Witnesses’ Kingdom Hall in Budennovsk, Stavropol district. Members of the local community suspect arson.

All this is occurring because the Jehovah's Witnesses have been accused sectarianism and hostility towards the Russian Federation.

Recently, their situation has further deteriorated following an order last September by a provincial court in Rostov to shut down the community’s organisation, seize its assets and ban all of its activities in Taganrog, Neklinov and Matveevo-Kurgan because of alleged extremist activities.

Members of the group have also been subjected to arrest and interrogation and have been dragged before the courts. In many Russian regions, the community has become the target of systematic accusations that it is a sect and that it is unfriendly to other Churches.

The authorities especially object to the group’s support for conscientious objection, opposition to compulsory military service, refusal to bear arms, rejection to blood transfusion and the demand that its members be completely involved in the community’s life.

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