Supreme Court bans Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia

Russia labels Jehovah's Witnesses 'extremist group,' seizes property

The country's Supreme Court declared the organization an extremist in a ruling today and outlawed its activity in the whole territory of Russian Federation, thereby sustaining the Justice Ministry's demands.

The group, which has vowed to appeal the verdict, was earlier declared an extremist organization by a Moscow city court in January, state media reported.

Like Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists and other religious minorities in the country, Jehovah's Witnesses have come under intense scrutiny under Russian anti-extremism laws that ban proselytizing and curtail the dissemination of religious literature. Reacting, it said it wold appeal the decision.

Four former members of the Jehovah's Witnesses had told a Russia's Supreme Court how they were brainwashed by the church against receiving higher education or starting a family. Under Russian legislation the religious organization in question is to be closed down if it fails to eliminate the exposed violations within the required deadline or if new evidence of its extremist activities comes to light.

It has said a ban would directly affect about 400 of its groups and have an impact on all of its 2,277 religious groups in Russian Federation.

Leaders of the group could face as many as 10 years in prison.

Russian authorities have put several of the group's publications on a list of banned extremist literature.

The ministry said it had found signs of "extremist activity" within the organisation and requested that it be banned. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2010 that the move had violated the right to freedom of religion and association. They also reject military service and blood transfusions.

Jehovah's Witnesses has more than 8 million adherents worldwide, but the group stands apart from key aspects of Christian doctrine as practiced by Roman Catholics and numerous Protestant denominations.

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