Russia bans Jehovah's Witnesses group as religious extremists

Russia's Supreme Court bans Jehovah Witnesses

Russia's Supreme Court bans Jehovah Witnesses

Supreme Court Judge Yuri Ivanenko declared the denomination's Administrative Center, its head office in Russian Federation, an "extremist organization" and, on that basis, ordered the Jehovah's Witnesses group in Russian Federation "dissolved" and its activities banned.

The Jehovah's Witnesses group has been banned in Russian Federation after being described as "a threat to the public".

Russian Federation changed its legal definition of extremism in 2006, removing requirements for violence or hatred but stating the "incitement of....religious discord" as criteria, leaving the Jehovah's Witnesses with the same legal status as Isis or Nazis.

"I didn't expect that this could be possible in modern Russian Federation, where the constitution guarantees freedom", he said, according to the AFP. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2010 that the move had violated the right to freedom of religion and association.

Jehovah's Witnesses first registered as a religious group in Russian Federation in 1991 and registered again in 1999, but have been targeted repeatedly by authorities in a wide-ranging crackdown on religious freedom. The April 20 ruling resulted not only in the ban of public evangelizing and church-affiliated activities, but also the government seizure of the group's St. Petersburg offices and almost 400 church buildings.

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Religious life in Russian Federation is dominated by the Orthodox Church, which exerts considerable political influence and enjoys the support of President Vladimir Putin. In the whole world, Jehovah's Witnesses are known as peaceful, obedient, respectful citizens.

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.

Russia's Justice Ministry had sought the order, which the group said it will appeal. More than 70,000 pages of documents were confiscated for the General Prosecutor's Office, according to Russia's Sova Center of Information and Analysis, which monitors hate crimes and the enforcement of anti-extremist laws.

The decision came after six days of hearings spread over the last two weeks, during which the court reviewed a claim submitted by the Ministry of Justice in Moscow.