Saturday, 24 June, 2017

Russia's supreme court bans Jehovah's Witnesses

Members of Jehovah's Witnesses listen to the judge's verdict in a court room in Moscow Russia's Supreme Court Deems Jehovah Witnesses Extremist Bans Organization
Howard Terry | 21 April, 2017, 00:24

Russia's Supreme Court ruled on Thursday (April 20) that Jehovah's Witnesses was an "extremist" organization and must hand over all its property to the state, Russian news agencies reported.

Jehovah's Witnesses say the accusations are completely untrue.

The ruling comes after a Moscow court warned Jehovah's Witnesses over its "extremist activities" in October 2016.

It has faced court proceedings in several countries, mostly over its pacifism and rejection of blood transfusions, but Russian Federation has been most outspoken in portraying it as an extremist cult.

He said he feared that members of the group could face prosecution if they continued to gather and study the Bible.

The Russian case against Jehovah's Witnesses was denounced by the European Union and U.S. Sen. The country had banned them from distributing any literature as it was considered to break the country's anti-extremist laws.

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

The ministry was investigating the Jehovah's Witnesses' Russian headquarters near St. Petersburg over the past year and claimed it discovered violations of a Russian law banning extremism. The inspection found that the Administrative Center had continued to fund branches that had been closed after a court banned them for extremism.

The Russian government had on March 16 filed a suit to outlaw the Jehovah's Witnesses.

The religious group is to be disbanded and its assets seized by the government, according to the court's website. 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".

It came hours after the justice ministry applied for an order to shut down the group's national headquarters near St Petersburg and 395 local chapters, news groups said.

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

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