Supreme Court bans Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia

Russia Supreme Court bans Jehovah's Witnesses

Russia's Supreme Court has designated the Jehovah's Witnesses as an extremist organization and ordered the state to seize the religious group's property.

The court ordered the closure of the group's Russian Federation national headquarters near St Petersburg, and its 395 local chapters, as well as the seizure of its property. In the whole world, Jehovah's Witnesses are known as peaceful, obedient, respectful citizens. Borisova also said that Jehovah's Witnesses' refusal to accept blood transfusions was in violation of Russian health laws.

"The property of the "Jehovah's Witnesses" organization is to be confiscated to the state revenue", the judge Yuri Ivanenko said.

"We fear that people will end up in jail", he said.

The judicial ruling has not yet taken legal effect. If the organization appeals it, the ruling will come into force as of the moment the appellate court pronounces its opinion or in 30 days' time.

The decision comes after the ministry said it had found signs of "extremist activity" within the organisation and requested that it be banned. The group's activities were suspended in March.

Members of the Jehovah's Witnesses - a Christian evangelical movement that was born in the United States in the 19th century - consider modern churches to have deviated from the Bible's true teachings.

According to the new expanded definition, the Jehovah's Witnesses are extremists.

During the hearing, one witness, identified as Natalia Koretskaya from St. Petersburg, testified that she was a member of the group from 1995 to 2009, TASS news agency reported. The organization was banned following the 1917 Russian Revolution, and Jehovah's Witnesses were persecuted under the Soviet Union.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) was among the worldwide bodies condemning a "state sponsored campaign of harassment and mistreatment of Jehovah's Witnesses" it said dated back to the 1990s in Russian Federation. As a result, Russian officials have place a large number of the group's publications on a list of banned extremist literature.

As NPR has previously reported, the group's literature and website has been subject to bans in Russian Federation and members have been arrested or had their property seized.

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