Moscow Court Upholds Ban on Jehovah's Witnesses' Religious Activites

June 17, 2004

Source: The Plain Dealer

Wire Service: AP

On June 17, 2004 the Associated Press reported, "Reflecting increased pressure on religious minorities in a country dominated by the Russian Orthodox Church, a Moscow court Wednesday upheld a ban on activities by Jehovah's Witnesses in the capital. The ruling by the Moscow City Court upholds a lower court decision earlier this year that prohibited Jehovah's Witnesses from engaging in religious activity. The ruling arose from a Russian law that allows courts to ban religious groups that are considered to be inciting hatred or intolerant behavior. Jehovah's Witnesses spokesman Christian Presber said the decision will prevent the group from renting space for worship, holding bank accounts or otherwise supporting its religious activities. 'Religious freedom has just turned back to where it was in Soviet times,' the organization's Canadian lawyer John Burns said outside the courtroom. At the hearing, Burns and his colleagues argued that the lower court was biased, taking into account evidence provided almost exclusively by prosecutors. They also said the court based its ruling on the testimony of only seven witnesses who did not speak for the entire Moscow community. There are about 10,000 Jehovah's Witnesses in Moscow and 133,000 nationwide, according to the group."