Supreme Court bans Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia

Supreme Court Judge Yuri Ivanenko declared the denomination's Administrative Center, its head office in Russian Federation, an "extremist organization" and, on that basis, ordered the Jehovah's Witnesses group in Russian Federation "dissolved" and its activities banned.

Judges ordered the closure of the group's Russian headquarters and 395 local chapters, as well as the seizure of its property. They are not seen by traditional Christian Churches as a mainstream denomination. Thomas J. Reese, Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, condemned the move, noting that "individual and community expressions of faith, and even private religious beliefs, are not safe from state-sponsored repression and coercion in Russian Federation today". The Islamic State and Al Qaida are also banned in Russian Federation.

"They just look very suspiciously on any organization that they can't control", he said.

According to the Witnesses, "extremism is profoundly alien to Bible-based beliefs and morality" of members of the Jehovah's Witnesses faith.

In 2015, a court in Rostov convicted 16 Jehovah's Witnesses of practicing extremism in Taganrog. "Jehovah's Witnesses in Russian Federation are now given the heartrending choice of either abandoning their faith or facing punishment for practicing it".

"Millions of believers around the world consider the action of the Ministry of Justice a big mistake", the group said, according to Newsweek.

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"They pose a threat to the rights of citizens, public order and public security", she told the court.

Jehovah's Witnesses said it would appeal the decision. "We feel like the ruling flies in the face of all of the evidence that was presented in court. With this decision, the Russian government takes another unnecessary step away from the global community and toward isolation". Otherwise, the ruling will become final within 30 days.

Reese, though, conceded he had little hope of either avenue being successful. As a result, Russian officials have place a large number of the group's publications on a list of banned extremist literature.

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

A ban on the group had been sought by the justice ministry on...

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