Russian court bans Jehovah's Witnesses, rules group is extremist - agencies

Ausiliatrice Cristiano
Aprile 21, 2017

Russia's Supreme Court outlawed the Jehovah's Witnesses Thursday, declaring the group a threat to national security and seizing its property. The ban will not come into force until after the group's appeal is heard.

The court ordered the government to seize the Christian group's property, upholding a motion by Russia's Justice Ministry to terminate the group's activities in the country. "If the claim is satisfied, it would entail catastrophic consequences for the freedom of religion in Russian Federation". Under Russian legislation the religious organization in question is to be closed down if it fails to eliminate the exposed violations within the required deadline or if new evidence of its extremist activities comes to light. The Russian government cracked down on the group previous year when it banned Jehovah's Witnesses literature they considered a violation of national security laws.

Russian authorities have put several of the group's publications on a list of banned extremist literature.

Jehovah's Witnesses, best known worldwide for their door-to-door preaching and distribution of religious literature, has 175,000 adherents and 395 branches in Russian Federation. Prosecutors claimed that the organization destroys families, foments hatred and threatens lives, which Jehovah's Witnesses says is a false characterization.

In 2004, Moscow dissolved a branch of the Jehovah's Witnesses. They also reject military service and blood transfusions.

Jehovah's Witnesses believe in a distinct version of Christianity with its own interpretation of the Bible. "Jehovah's Witnesses in Russian Federation are now given the heartrending choice of either abandoning their faith or facing punishment for practicing it".

Following the ruling, a Jehovah's Witnesses spokesperson announced that they will appeal the decision taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

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