Court Bans Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, Lists it as an Extremist Group

Court Bans Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, Lists it as an Extremist Group

Court Bans Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, Lists it as an Extremist Group

Russia's Supreme Court has ruled Jehovah's Witnesses is an "extremist" organisation after the justice ministry applied for an order to shut down the group's national headquarters near St Petersburg, Russian news agencies report.

The group, which has 395 centres across Russian Federation, has vowed to appeal the decision.

Supreme Court judge Yury Ivanenko announced that the Russia government had made a decision to close down "the administrative centre of Jehovah's Witnesses and the local organisations in its fold and turn their property over to the Russian Federation".

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

The Russian list of banned extremist organizations now contains 59 entries, majority white supremacist organizations.

Jehovah's Witnesses Russian branch, based near St Petersburg, has regularly rejected this allegation. The inspection found that the Administrative Center had continued to fund branches that had been closed after a court banned them for extremism.

Some of the group's publications are listed as "extremist literature". The decision could place more than 170,000 Russian adherents of the Jehovah's Witnesses, a USA -founded Christian denomination that preaches non-violence, in the same category as militant groups Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.

A member of the Council of Europe and a party to the European Convention on Human Rights, Russia is obligated to protect freedom of religion and association. "If the claim is satisfied, it would entail catastrophic consequences for the freedom of religion in Russian Federation". The closure order directly violates the pluralism of thought and belief that is foundational to a democratic society and as the court has repeatedly affirmed, is "at the very heart of the protection which [the convention] affords".

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.

"It's not too late for the Russian authorities to make right this serious move against religious freedom", Denber said.

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