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Russian court bans Jehovah's Witnesses, rules group is extremist - agencies

Russian court bans Jehovah's Witnesses, rules group is extremist - agencies

On Thursday, Russia's Supreme Court banned the Christian sect's activities in the country, alleging "extremist" behavior by the group.

Russian Federation has banned Jehovah's Witnesses after the Supreme Court ruled the Christian sect to be an "extremist" group.

Justice minister Svetlana Borisova said: "They represent a threat to the rights of people, public order and public safety".

It was reported that the court declared the religious organisation an extremist group after the Russian government had on March 16 filed a suit to outlaw the Jehovah's Witnesses.

USCIRF Chair, Thomas J. Reese, S.J., commented that "The court's decision sadly reconfirms the disregard of the government for religious freedom in present-day Russian Federation". The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2010 that the move had violated the right to freedom of religion and association. During the Supreme Court hearing, Russia's justice ministry warned that individuals could also be persecuted under the extremism law, which was passed following the 9/11 attacks in the USA and Russia's second war in Chechnya in 1999 and 2000.

A number of books and pamphlets by Jehovah's Witnesses have also been banned in Russian Federation in the past years.




The plaintiff, the Russian Justice Ministry, cited the group's aversion to blood transfusion on religious grounds as reason for the ban. The ban will not come into force until after the group's appeal is heard. "We respect government, and we are politically totally neutral", said Yaroslav Sivulsky.

The Jehovah's Witness denomination was organized in the 1880s by Charles Taze Russell in the United States.

The court, after six days of hearings, ordered the closing of the group's Russian Federation headquarters and its 395 local chapters on Thursday (April 20).

Russian Federation has been the subject of criticism more broadly for its treatment of minority religious groups.

Jehovah's Witnesses has a history of persecution, including in Nazi Germany. 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 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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