Jehovah's Witnesses in Southern Russia Face New Charges

Rostov-On-Don – Prosecutors in the southern Russian city of Taganrog have charged 16 Jehovah's Witnesses with taking part in the activities of an extremist organization after they allegedly resurrected the banned local branch of the international religious organization.

According to investigators, the religious group’s followers continued to hold regular meetings after their local branch was banned in the city in 2009. At the meetings, they allegedly incited hatred against other religions, circulated extremist literature and called for military draft dodging.

The suspects also attempted to involve children in their activities and collected money for the organization, the prosecutors said in a statement.

“The case materials will be sent to the Taganrog city court after the suspects are informed of the charges,” the statement said.

The Jehovah's Witnesses organization, which has more than seven million followers worldwide, including over 130,000 in Russia, has been banned in a number of Russian regions and in some former Soviet republics over its religious beliefs.

The Jehovah's Witnesses branch in the Russian capital was dissolved by a district court ruling in 2004, but the European Court of Human Rights declared the decision illegal in 2010.