Dec 12, 2021

CultNEWS101 Articles: 12/27/2021 (Shincheonji, Legal, Korea, Jehovah's Witnesses, Kyrgyzstan, Religious Freedom, France, Miviludes)

Shincheonji, Legal, Korea, Jehovah's Witnesses, Kyrgyzstan, Religious Freedom, France, Miviludes

"An appellate court on Tuesday upheld a lower court's ruling and acquitted a religious sect leader of charges that he obstructed the government's response to COVID-19 outbreaks last year.

Lee Man-hee, the 90-year-old founder of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, was indicted last year for allegedly underreporting the number of Shincheonji followers and church locations to the government when the virus was fast spreading among the followers.

However, both the district and the appellate courts found that submission of such information pertains to the data acquisition process, not the government's epidemiological investigation process, concluding Lee's act is not punishable under the infectious disease prevention act.

"It is also difficult to conclude the accused deliberately omitted requested data," the Suwon High Court said, noting that the church later submitted all requested data to the government.

The court, however, found Lee partly guilty of charges of embezzling 5.6 billion won (US$4.7 million) from church funds to build a new church facility and holding unauthorized religious events at local government facilities from 2015 to 2019.

The high court gave Lee a three-year prison term, suspended for five years, for the offenses, a sentence slightly heavier than the three-year term, suspended for four years, handed by the lower court."
Religion News Service: Kyrgyzstan is expected to ban Jehovah's Witnesses publications for 'extremism'
"A criminal case initiated in 2019 accuses the Jehovah's Witnesses in Kyrgyzstan of inciting "racial, ethnic, national, religious or interregional hatred" and resulted in a March 2021 raid of the Witnesses' national center in Bishkek, the country's capital. The raid led authorities to file a civil claim asking for the publications to be banned. The Jehovah's Witnesses don't have any additional info on the status of the criminal case, but it has not gone to trial yet.

Jehovah's Witnesses have appealed to Kyrgyzstan's president in two letters advocating for the right to peacefully practice their beliefs.

"The international community has repeatedly condemned Russia in the strongest terms for such violations of religious freedom and fundamental human rights. Therefore, we respectfully ask that your esteemed government urgently direct that the criminal case be terminated and the court application be removed," Jehovah's Witnesses wrote in a Nov. 24 letter.

In July, Kyrgyzstan's State Committee for National Security characterized Jehovah's Witnesses as "totalitarian in nature" and asked the the prosecutor general to ban the group's materials and consider a possible ban on the group's activity.

"Its practices and precepts contravene the basic provisions of the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic and legal norms by forcing its members to renounce personal opinions and beliefs, to limit their freedom, to make regular payments as well as to forfeit material assets for their community," the letter said.

Today, there are more than 5,000 Jehovah's Witnesses in Kyrgyzstan, where the group has been present since the 1950s. The group's publications have been available in the Kyrgyz language since 1994, and the faith's national administrative office was built in 2004. Lopes said that if the publications are banned Thursday, raids and imprisonments will likely follow.

Jehovah's Witnesses are currently banned in Russia, China, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan."

" ... The main missions of Miviludes today is to investigate cults, coordinate law enforcement action against them, train and inform law enforcement on sects, educate the public about the dangers and put victims in touch with support services.

Miviludes received more than 3,000 referrals in 2020 – a 40 percent increase over five years. Alerts of cult activity linked Covid-19 were among the most common.

In an interview with Le Monde, Schiappa revealed that around 140,000 adults are currently involved in cults in France.

Minors are by far the most targeted population group when it comes to cults.

It operates under the direct supervision of the Interior Ministry and is seeing a resurgence after years of budget cuts.

The most recent nationwide report from Miviludes, published in July, revealed a number of findings.

The organization recognised Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientologists, Neo-Shamans, some evangelist protestant groups, some Christian groups, a selection of Christian and Islamic groups, mediums, personal development specialists, multi-level marketers, and even alternative medicine practitioners as belonging to sects.

The report found that yoga and meditation were the fastest growing ways through which the public were being lured into 'sectarian aberrations'."

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