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The Ministry of Justice is launching a large-scale unscheduled inspection of the Jehovah's Witnesses Center. What does it mean?

On February 15, 2017, the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia had to hand over more than 73,000 pages of internal documentation (pictured) to the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation. In the notice of an unscheduled inspection, the Ministry of Justice of Russia does not hide the fact that it acts at the request of the Prosecutor General's Office of the Russian Federation. What does such a check mean?

On March 2, 2017, one year expires from the date of issuing a warning to the "Administrative Center" about the inadmissibility of extremist activities. In it, the Deputy Prosecutor General of Russia threatens to close a centralized religious organization if "new facts" of extremist activity are revealed within 12 months. The believers unsuccessfully tried to challenge the prosecutor's warning in the courts of various instances, proving the illegality and far-fetchedness of the accusations of Jehovah's Witnesses of extremism.

During these 12 months, cases of falsification of evidence against Jehovah's Witnesses became significantly more frequent, primarily by planting printed "extremist materials" in worship buildings. In 2016 alone, there were at least 46 such throws, some recorded on surveillance cameras. Believers sent relevant statements to law enforcement agencies, however, instead of investigating them and identifying the perpetrators, the prosecutor's offices issued warnings to the believers themselves.

To outlaw Jehovah's Witnesses, the prosecutor's office uses a simplified scheme. A single planted pamphlet often amounts to a warning from a local religious organization (LRO). After that, within a year after the warning, due to new plantings, "new facts" of the extremist activities of this LRO are formed. On this completely fabricated basis, the LRO is liquidated. And the fact of the liquidation of the LRO is used to accuse the centralized organization of extremism. The warning to the Administrative Center was issued on this basis. And the Prosecutor General's Office, in its demand to the Ministry of Justice to conduct an unscheduled inspection, claims that "new facts" of extremist activities of the Administrative Center have already been established, since after a warning under the above scheme, several more LROS were liquidated.

Does the prosecutor's office intend to use this scheme against the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia and liquidate it on trumped-up charges of extremism? This is not known, but all the necessary steps have already been taken by the Prosecutor General's Office.

"Now the Ministry of Justice, at the request of the Prosecutor General's Office, is thoroughly studying the property and activities of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia," says Yaroslav Sivulsky of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia. We don't know. However, given that the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses is professed by hundreds of thousands of Russian citizens, such a step would be a real disaster for rights and freedoms in our country. Without any exaggeration, this would throw us back to the dark times of oppression for the faith, which are still fresh in the memory of the older generation. I hope that doesn't happen."