If prosecutors proceed with their threat to liquidate the Jehovah’s Witness headquarters near St Petersburg, thousands of local congregations across Russia could also face prohibition of their activities and individuals could be vulnerable to criminal charges for expressing their beliefs, Forum 18 notes.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ principal body in Russia is under threat of dissolution as an “extremist” organisation after the deadline in an official warning from the General Prosecutor’s Office expired on 10 May, Forum 18 notes. If prosecutors decide to pursue liquidation, thousands of local Jehovah’s Witness congregations across Russia could also face prohibition of their activities and individuals could be vulnerable to criminal charges for expressing their beliefs.
If dissolution of the Administrative Centre is pursued, this would be the first instance of a registered, centralised religious organisation with active subdivisions being liquidated for “extremism”, Forum 18 notes.
Lawyers have until 10 June to challenge the warning in court, the Administrative Centre told Forum 18 from St Petersburg. Lawyers for the Administrative Centre are planning to lodge a challenge at Tver District Court in Moscow, and told Forum 18 they still hope that the matter will be resolved in their favour.
Forum 18’s questions to the General Prosecutor’s Office – including whether liquidation of the Administrative Centre would amount to a prohibition on all Jehovah’s Witness activity across Russia – had not been answered by the end of the working day in Moscow on 24 May (see below).