Russia BANS Jehovah's Witnesses as 'extremist organisation'

Russia BANS Jehovah's Witnesses as 'extremist organisation'

Russia BANS Jehovah's Witnesses as 'extremist organisation'

Supreme Court judge Yury Ivanenko announced that the Russia government had made a decision to close down "the administrative centre of Jehovah's Witnesses and the local organisations in its fold and turn their property over to the Russian Federation".

A member of the Council of Europe and a party to the European Convention on Human Rights, Russia is obligated to protect freedom of religion and association.

"Those decisions were based on fabricated evidence and flawed by procedural errors", the group said on its website.

Practitioners of the faith argue that it means their activities from now on will be criminalised.

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.

Officials have accused the religion of destroying families, propagating hatred and endangering lives.

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Jehovah's Witnesses in Russian Federation have 30 days to submit their appeal for consideration by a three-person panel. A spokesman told the AFP news agency that he was "shocked" by the ruling.

"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. They reject modern evolutionary theory and refuse blood transfusions. They are not seen by traditional Christian Churches as a mainstream denomination.

In January, police raided a Siberian branch, and discovered extremist literature, which the Jehovah's Witnesses accused officers of having planted.

During Joseph Stalin's reign of terror in the Soviet Union it was outlawed and thousands of members were deported to Siberia.

Gradually attitudes towards the movement hardened again and in 2004 it was accused of recruiting children and preventing believers from accepting medical assistance. Leaders of the group could face as many as 10 years in prison.

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