Jehovah’s Witnesses are banned in Russia, they are seen as an extremist community. The Russian authorities have now started new criminal proceedings against members.
The Russian authorities have launched a new criminal case against Jehovah’s Witnesses for extremist activities. The investigative committee responsible for serious crimes in Moscow announced on Tuesday that the religious community, which has been banned in Russia since 2017, is suspected of having held “conspiratorial meetings” in Moscow since the summer of last year. House searches took place across the country.
Followers of the community have studied “religious literature” as well as other scriptures that “propagate the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses,” said the investigative committee. Further followers have also been recruited.
The interior ministry, the domestic secret service FSB and the national guard were also involved in the raids in Moscow and more than 20 other regions of the country, it said. A video published by the Investigative Committee showed men dressed in black and wearing balaclavas breaking into an apartment in Moscow. At the end of the video, among other things, dollar bills and an open book could be seen, which was only displayed pixelated.
Russia’s Supreme Court ordered the dissolution of Jehovah’s Witnesses three years ago. The Justice Department classifies the community established in the USA as “extremist”. Several Jehovah’s Witness supporters have been sentenced to long prison terms since the ban was imposed.
In 2018, Russia’s head of state Vladimir Putin spoke out against viewing Jehovah’s Witnesses as “terrorists”. Moscow continues to crack down on the supporters. Among other things, they are accused of not recognizing state symbols such as the national flag. A representative of the influential Russian Orthodox Church spoke of the organization as a “destructive sect”.