MOSCOW prosecutors are trying to ban the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Russian capital under a controversial new law that aims to curb the activity of “non-traditional” religious groups.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses say they are the latest victim of the 1997 law “on freedom of conscience and religious organisations.”
And, on Tuesday, September 29th 1998, a court hearing began which could see other minority religions throughout Russia eventually being shut down.
It is believed that a body called the Committee for the Rescue of Youth had initiated the case by accusing the Jehovah’s Witnesses of destroying families, fostering hatred and driving their members to insanity and suicide.
So far the law has been branded by human rights’ activists, the Vatican and Washington as discriminatory and politically motivated.
They say the law, designed to strengthen the Russian Orthodox Church and restrict foreign religions and cults that many Russians consider dangerous, contradicts Russia’s constitutional right to freedom of religion.
“This case reflects the anti-religious views of some officials who want to take us back to Soviet days,” said Artur Leontyev, a lawyer for the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“The new religion law is a political document. If the prosecutors win this case it will have reverberations across Russia,” he said.
He said the prosecution had so far failed to explain its grounds for trying to close the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
And that seems to be proven by the fact that trial has been put back until February 9th, 1999 to allow prosecutors to fully prepare their case.