Supreme Court bans Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia

Russia Supreme Court bans Jehovah's Witnesses

Supreme Court bans Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia

Russia's Supreme Court has banned Jehovah's Witnesses, ruling that the group is an "extremist" organisation and ordering it to hand over all its property to the state.

Should the Jehovah's Witnesses choose to appeal this decision, USCIRF urges the Russian court system to overturn this unjustified ruling.

The Interfax news agency on Thursday quoted Justice Ministry attorney Svetlana Borisova in court as saying that Jehovah's Witnesses pose a threat to Russians.

Members of the Jehovah's Witnesses wait for the decision in court in Moscow.

President Vladimir Putin has allied with the Orthodox Church, which dominates religious life in Russian Federation, in a bid to tighten his grip on power.

Human Rights Watch criticized Thursday's decision as an impediment to religious freedom in Russian Federation.

The case reached the Supreme Court following a lawsuit by Russia's Justice Ministry.

"Jehovah's Witnesses in Russian Federation are now given the heartrending choice of either abandoning their faith or facing punishment for practicing it", said Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

The group has been officially banned from the port city of Taganrog since 2009, after a local court ruled the organization guilty of inciting religious hatred by "propagating the exclusivity and supremacy" of their religion, according to the British newspaper The Independent.

The report also revealed that the 395 local chapters and group's headquarters in Russian Federation have been ordered to close down and operations. "We respect government, and we are politically totally neutral", said Yaroslav Sivulsky.

The Jehovah's Witnesses group was founded in the United States in the 19th century.

Russian Federation has taken the hardest stand of any country against the faith, whose followers go from door to door and refuse military service and blood transfusions.

Jehovah's Witnesses has a history of persecution, including in Nazi Germany. Beliefs, such as rejection of blood transfusions and rejection of military service, have led to clashes with the authorities in several countries.

The Russian list of banned extremist organizations now contains 59 entries, a lot of them white supremacist organizations.

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