Russia BANS Jehovah's Witnesses as 'extremist organisation'

Following weeks of hearings, Russia's Supreme Court has backed the Ministry of Justice's move to liquidate the Jehovah's Witnesses' Administrative Center and its almost 400 religious organizations throughout the country and will seize its property, beginning immediately.

A lawyer for the justice ministry, Svetlana Borisova, told the court that adherents "pose a threat to the rights of the citizens, public order and public security".

Russia's Justice Ministry applied for an order to shut down the group's St Petersburg headquarters.

"We are greatly disappointed by this development and deeply concerned about how this will affect our religious activity", states Yaroslav Sivulskiy, a spokesman for Jehovah's Witnesses in Russian Federation.

In its claim to the Russian Supreme Court, the ministry accused Jehovah's Witnesses of disseminating "extremist" pamphlets and said the center and all regional facilities should be "liquidated".

The court ordered the government to seize the Christian group's property, upholding a motion by Russia's Justice Ministry to terminate the group's activities in the country.

"I didn't expect that this could be possible in modern Russian Federation, where the constitution guarantees freedom of religious practice".

"We will do everything possible", Sergei Cherepanov, a Jehovah's Witnesses representative, was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

The court declared the religious organisation an extremist group.

Jehovah's Witnesses have received heavy criticism from mainstream Christianity, members of the medical community, ex-members and others regarding their beliefs and practices.

Its members are known for preaching on doorsteps, where they offer religious literature and attempt to convert people.

In January, the leader of a congregation in the town of Dzerzhinsk in the central Nizhny Novgorod region was fined for distributing materials that authorities deemed extremist, local media reported.

According to #Russia Jehovah's Witnesses are extremists and it is now illegal to be one. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2010 that the move had violated the rights of freedom of religion and association.

  • Elsie Buchanan