Supreme Court bans Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia

Russia's Supreme Court bans Jehovah Witnesses

Today, the state's Supreme Court granted the order, branding Jehovah's Witnesses an extremist organisation.

The ban on the Jehovah's Witnesses in Russian Federation is significant partly because it is the first time that Russian Federation has banned an organized religious group, according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

In January, police raided a Siberian branch, and discovered extremist literature, which the Jehovah's Witnesses accused officers of having planted. Several of the group's publications were placed on a list of banned extremist literature, while prosecutors have described it as an organization that destroys families and threatens lives.

Sergei Cherepanov, a Jehovah's Witnesses representative, told Interfax news agency: "We will do everything possible".

According to the Justice Ministry, violations of the law "On Combatting Extremism" were revealed during inspection conducted in the organization. Otherwise, the ruling will become final within 30 days.

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The Jehovah's Witnesses claim more than 170,000 adherents in Russian Federation.

In Russia, religious liberty as a whole-and Jehovah's Witnesses in particular-have always been under attack. The group's activities were suspended in March. The denomination says it has 170,000 adherents in Russian Federation. In the whole world, Jehovah's Witnesses are known as peaceful, obedient, respectful citizens.

The group has a long history of persecution in Russian Federation. A spokesman, Vasily Kalin, said: 'The Justice Ministry not only humiliates itself and its functions, but has humiliated the entire state in the eyes of the global community with an unreasonable and reckless accusation'. That law classifies crimes "motivated by prejudice or, as stated in Russian law, "ideological, political, racial, national or religious enmity, as well as hatred or enmity towards a social group" as extremist. Now, the outcome that freedom lovers feared has come to pass-the group has been outlawed for good. The Christian group says it is planning to appeal the decision.

The government has cracked down on the group in recent years, imposing fines on congregations and occasionally arresting leaders perceived to be stoking anti-government sentiment.

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