A TRIAL, which could see Jehovah’s Witnesses banned from worshipping in Moscow was suspended on March 12th 1999 to allow a panel of experts to review the doctrines of the religious group.
After five weeks of intense questioning of both defence and prosecution witnesses, Judge Yelena Prokhorycheva suspended the court case and gave no indication of when it would resume.
She selected the five members of the “expert panel” that is expected to review the religious doctrine of Jehovah’s Witnesses but did not say when the pane would finish its work.
The case which started in September was brought by the prosecutors office of Moscow’s northern administrative region.
It is using the 1997 law “on freedom of conscience and religious organisations” as it accuses the Jehovah’s Witnesses of violating the Russian constitution by their missionary activities.
Jehovah’s Witnesses claim no one is forced to practise their religion and stress that any ban on he group would defy the Russian Constitution and European convention on Human Rights.
“If we lose and we are banned and liquidated, other parts of Russia will follow suit, so for us the stakes are extraordinarily high,” said Jehovah’s Witness Judah Schroeder.
A judgement against the group could lead to the banning of other sects, including the Mormon church and the Seventh-Day Adventists.
The Orthodox Church supports the new law, which enshrines it as the country’s main religious group.
Metropolitan Kiril, one of the Orthodox Church’s Moscow leaders, accused Jehovah’s Witnesses of “intruding on the people’s spiritual world and exerting psychological pressure,” the Interfax news agency reported.