By Kent Larsen
Moscow Ruling for Jehovah's Witnesses Strengthens Religious Freedom
MOSCOW, RUSSIA -- A Moscow judge Friday refused to liquidate the Jehovah's
Witnesses' Moscow community, giving the sect the victory in a two-year-long
court battle. The case has attracted international attention as a test of
Russia's controversial 1997 law that forced relatively recent denominations,
including the LDS Church, to undergo a complicated registration process.
"Despite all the efforts of the prosecutor, justice was victorious,"
spokesman for the Jehovah's Witnesses Yaroslav Sivulsky said. "You can now
say freedom of belief really still exists in Russia."
In the case, the Jehovah's Witnesses were accused of breaking up families,
infringing individuals' rights and converting minors without parents'
permission. The group was also accused of violating the controversial 1997 law.
The case is also significant for other minority religions in Russia, such as
the LDS Church, strengthening their position in court. Like the Jehovah's
Witnesses, various local LDS branches and their members have been harassed
and local branches have sometimes found it difficult to comply with local
authorities. The Jehovah's Witnesses have about 250,000 members in Russia,
while the LDS Church has about 10,000.
Jehovah's Witnesses Win Moscow Test Case, Beat Ban
Russia Today (Reuters) 23Feb01 T1