On Thursday, May 3, 2018, the Saint Petersburg City Court, upheld the original December 2017 decision, allowing the Russian government to immediately confiscate former Russia branch facilities of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Solnechnoye.

However, the ruling is part of an application that is already being considered by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The ECHR has communicated to the Russian government that the Witnesses application is being considered as a matter of priority.

The original ruling by the Sestroretskiy District Court in December 2017 ignored evidence that the Witnesses’ office is owned by Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania (WTPA), a nonprofit corporation based in the United States.

Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia transferred the property to WTPA in 2000, and WTPA has since paid some $3 million (188 million rubles) in property taxes to the Russian Federation. Although the Russian government recognised the legal transfer for over 17 years, the district court now asserts that the WTPA’s ownership contract is invalid.

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