Kremlin advisers have asked the general prosecutor’s office to stop prosecuting Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, according to Reuters Thursday.
Nineteen members of the religious group have been detained on criminal charges in Russia since Russia’s Supreme Court ruled last April that the group was an “extremist” organization. The ruling forced Jehovah’s Witness to close their headquarters as well as 395 chapters throughout Russia, deeming them a threat to national security and seizing their property. Russian courts banned the Jehovah Witnesses Bible in 2017, deeming it extremist literature. The group had 170,000 followers in Russia before the government shut them down. (RELATED: Russia Declares Jehovah’s Witnesses An ‘Extremist’ Group, Seizes Property)
“The situation evokes associations with the Soviet period when Jehovah’s Witnesses suffered groundless repression because of their faith,” the Russian presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, an advisory group to President Vladimir Putin, said in a statement on Thursday.
“It’s encouraging to see that some in authority in Russia are speaking out publicly and questioning the legality of the current wave of criminal prosecutions against Jehovah’s Witnesses,” David A. Semonian, international spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses at their world headquarters in New York told The Daily Caller News Foundation on Thursday.
“The council’s intervention has given us a glimmer of optimism,” said Yaroslav Sivulskiy, spokesman for the European Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses to the DCNF. “We hope that common sense will prevail and that soon those in authority will realize this has all gone too far. Otherwise, if the authorities can do this to us they can apply the same logic to do the same to anyone in Russia.”
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