Supreme Court bans Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia

Members of Jehovah's Witnesses listen to the judge's verdict in a court room in Moscow

Following weeks of hearings, Russia's Supreme Court has backed the Ministry of Justice's move to liquidate the Jehovah's Witnesses' Administrative Center and its almost 400 religious organizations throughout the country and will seize its property, beginning immediately.

The organization has faced legal pressure in the year leading up to Thursday's ruling, including a ban on distributing literature, which was deemed to be in violation of Russian anti-extremist laws. Jehovah's Witnesses do advocate the shunning of nonbelievers of their particular faith, even family members.

The hearing of the case by the Supreme Court in Russian Federation in which the Government of Russian Federation was planning to ban Jehovah's Witnesses Thursday enters its sixth day.

Subsequently, some 400 registered Local Religious Organisations (LRO) would be liquidated, outlawing the services of over 2,300 congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russian Federation. Earlier, the Justice Ministry suspended the activities of the center until the final resolution of the dispute in court, RIA Novosti reports. The ruling goes into effect immediately.

Interfax news agency, quoting Jehovah's Witnesses representative Sergei Cherepanov, reported the group will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

The judicial action came after a request from the Russian Ministry of Justice to label the Jehovah's Witnesses an extremist group.

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The religious group's press service said its religious programs do not include banned materials and that officials have notified authorities whenever anyone brings such literature into their building.

Jehovah's Witnesses, known worldwide for their proselytizing activity, hold beliefs that mainstream Christian groups consider to be controversial.

"Sivulsky says the accusation of extremism is based on a false understanding of the Jehovah's Witnesses" assertion that theirs is the only true religion.

Koretskaya said she had been expelled from the religious organisation and its members had been banned to communicate with her after she started close but officially unregistered relationship with a man. 'The use of counter-extremism legislation in this way to confine freedom of opinion, including religious belief, expression and association to that which is state-approved is unlawful and risky, and signals a dark future for all religious freedom in Russian Federation'.

The latest ruling has parked concerns about freedom of religion in Russian Federation.

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