Jehovah's Witnesses magazine dispute suspended until May 29
MOSCOW, May 22 - RAPSI. The Moscow District Federal Commercial Court has suspended until May 29 its hearing of Jehovah's Witnesses' complaint about the ban on its Awake! and Watchtower magazines in Russia, the court told the Russian Legal Information Agency (RAPSI/rapsinews.com).
The court did not specify the reason for the postponement.
In February, the Ninth Commercial Court of Appeals upheld the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, IT and Mass Media's ban on publishing and distributing the magazines.
Thus, the court dismissed the appeal filed by Wachtturm Bibel - und Traktat-Gesellschaft, Deutscher Zweig, e.V, which holds the license to the magazines, and the Jehovah's Witnesses administrative center, which is responsible for their distribution.
On April 6, 2010, the watchdog revoked the distribution license issued by the State Committee for the Press in 1997, as some Russian courts had declared the magazines' content extremist.
Earlier, the claimants stated that the watchdog's orders were unlawful, as publishing and distributing media are its core economic activities. Thus, it said its rights had been violated. The claimants also said the ban should be considered a "kind of censorship," which may only be imposed by a court.
It also added that the organization conducts its activities outside Russia and is not subject to Russian law.
The complaint has already been heard by three courts.
In October 2010, the Moscow Commercial Court ruled against a motion to invalidate the orders. The court then decided that the plaintiffs' publishing and distribution activities were not of a business nature, and thus its rights could not have been violated as a result of the orders.
However, the Moscow District Federal Commercial Court ruled that the lower-court decisions are not based on credible arguments or evidence, and remanded the case for review.
Jehovah's Witnesses is an international religious organization. Many traditional religions believe it to be a pseudo-Christian sect. Its management center in Russia is located in St. Petersburg. Its activities are forbidden in China, North Korea, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and a number of other countries. According to the organization, its membership amounted to 7 million people as of August 2009.
In June 2010, the European Court of Human Rights declared as illegal a Russian court's decision to dissolve the Jehovah's Witnesses religious community in Moscow and ordered Russia to pay 70,000 euro in compensation to the aggrieved party.