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Banned Jehovah's Witnesses Appeal To Tajik Supreme Court

Jehovah's Witnesses in Tajikistan are expecting a verdict from the Supreme Court on their appeal of the decision that terminated the religious group's activities in the country, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Yury Toporov, a spokesman in Moscow for the Jehovah's Witnesses, told RFE/RL that the organization filed an appeal with the Supreme Court in December and, according to the law, a review of the appeal must be made within two months of the filing.

Toporov said the congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses was legally registered in Tajikistan in 1994.

But the Culture Ministry banned the religious group's activities in Tajikistan in October 2007 because the group's literature attacks other religions, its members actively proselytize, and they have prayer meetings in their homes rather than designated buildings.

On September 29, 2008, a trial judge in Dushanbe dismissed an application by the Jehovah's Witnesses asking that the Culture Ministry's decision be overturned. An appeal was also dismissed by the Supreme Court's Military Collegium in February 2009.

Toporov told RFE/RL: "In fact, Tajik authorities say their country is a modern country respecting all the religious groups and confessions and therefore we believe that Jehovah's Witnesses will be allowed to gather and to preach their faith in Tajikistan as they used to do before. That would correspond to international standards and Tajikistan's international obligations."