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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Jehovah's Witnesses Trial Resumes in Moscow

In a case seen as a key test of Russia's treatment of minority religions, the Jehovah's Witnesses Friday awaited a court ruling on prosecutors' efforts to outlaw their activities in Moscow.

Prosecutors read their final arguments before judges in a small, crowded courtroom. The defense was expected to present its side later in the day.

The Moscow city prosecutor has been trying to outlaw the Moscow branch of the U.S.-based church, using a provision in the Russian law on religion that allows courts to ban religious groups found guilty of inciting hatred or intolerant behavior. The trial began in September 1998 but was recessed six months later to give an expert panel a chance to study the group's publications.

The panel was to find evidence to back up the prosecutors' claim that the group destroyed families, fostered hatred and threatened lives.

The Jehovah's Witnesses say the law is being used to restrict churches other than Russia's biggest, long-established faiths that enjoy special status: Orthodox Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Their case is a test that could determine the fate of many minority churches in Russia, they say.

If outlawed, the capital's estimated 10,000 Jehovah's Witnesses would no longer have the right to hold public services, rent property or distribute literature in Moscow.