RUSSIA: Salvation Army Still Not Liquidated, and Battle Continues.

Tatyana Titova, Keston News Service, 9 August 2002

Despite having its court-ordered liquidation overturned and its legal status affirmed, the Moscow branch of the Salvation Army still faces another lower court hearing to consider the Moscow justice department's appeal that it be liquidated. Nor has the branch yet attained the re-registration with the justice department it first applied for nearly four years ago. Vladimir Ryakhovsky, the lawyer representing the Salvation Army, told Keston News Service on 7 August in the Russian capital that the Moscow Corps would again be seeking re-registration from the justice department.

On 1 August the presidium of Moscow city court overturned an earlier court ruling by Moscow's Taganka intermunicipal court under which the Moscow branch was deemed to have ceased its operations and to have lost its legal status. Ryakhovsky told Keston that in executing the decision of Russia's Constitutional Court, the chairman of the Moscow city court had raised an objection to that legal decision, and the case of the Salvation Army has been referred for re-consideration by the Taganka court. The Salvation Army's Moscow branch still has legal status and it appears unlikely that the Taganka court will again rule to liquidate the branch when it considers the case again. No date has yet been set for a new hearing.

The Salvation Army was registered in Moscow in 1992 and, as required by the 1997 amendments to the religion law, submitted documents for re-registration in November 1998. The Moscow City Department of Justice demanded amendments to the application and additional documentation, which dragged out the application until February 1999. Having been refused re-registration by the Moscow City Department of Justice, the Moscow Corps appealed to the Presnenski district court. However, the court confirmed the refusal, claiming that the Salvation Army is a "militarised" organisation subordinated to a foreign central body. On 28 November the Moscow City Court rejected the Moscow Corps' appeal against the district court ruling.

The Moscow justice department then moved to liquidate the Moscow Corps' legal status. On 12 September 2001, the Taganka intermunicipal court ruled to ban the operation of the Moscow branch on formal grounds - that it had failed to be re-registered within the period established by law. On 6 December 2001, the Moscow city court rejected the Salvation Army's appeal against the Taganka court ruling (see KNS 6 December 2001).

The Salvation Army's lawyers - the co-directors of the Moscow-based Slavic Centre for Law and Justice, Vladimir Ryakhovsky and Anatoli Pchelintsev - referred the case to the Constitutional Court, which on 7 February declared the constitutionality of the provisions of the Federal law "On freedom of conscience and of religious organisations", but said they had in this case been incorrectly applied, and determined that the Taganka intermunicipal court should reconsider the case (see KNS 4 March 2002).

In spite of the fact that the decision of the Taganka court has taken legal effect, it has not been enacted through the efforts of the branch's lawyers, and the branch has not had its legal personality withdrawn. Ryakhovsky told Keston that he submitted a request to the Taganka court to postpone execution of the decision until the case had been considered by the Constitutional Court. "As long as our appeal had not been considered, the decision on the withdrawal of legal personality status could not be enacted," the lawyer explained.

The court set its consideration aside several times, as a result of which, when Ryakhovsky made a routine visit to the Taganka court on 26 July, he was told that the Moscow city court had already halted the case. (END)