Russia bans Jehovah’s Witnesses and labels group as extremists

image

According to theguardian
Religious organization can no longer
operate in country, supreme court rules
Headquarters and local chapters
ordered to close and property will be
seized
Staff and agencies in Moscow
Thursday 20 April 2017 18.02 BST
Russia’s supreme court has banned the
Jehovah’s Witnesses from operating in
the country, accepting a request from
the justice ministry that the religious
organization be considered an extremist
group.

The court ordered
the closure of the
No group’s Russia
headquarters and
its 395 local
chapters, as well as
the seizure of its
property.

The Interfax news
agency on Thursday quoted justice
ministry attorney Svetlana Borisova in
court as saying that the Jehovah’s
Witnesses “pose a threat to the rights of
the citizens, public order and public
security”.

Borisova also said Jehovah’s Witnesses’
opposition to blood transfusions violates
Russian healthcare laws.
Yaroslav Sivulsky, a spokesman for
Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, said in a
statement they are “greatly
disappointed by this development and
deeply concerned about how this will
affect our religious activity”.
Jehovah’s Witnesses said they would
appeal against the ruling.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses claim more
than 170,000 adherents in Russia. The
group has come under increasing
pressure over the past year.
Russian authorities have put several of
the group’s publications on a list of
banned extremist literature, and
prosecutors have long cast it as an
organisation that destroys families,
fosters hatred and threatens lives, a
description the organisation says is
false.
Human Rights Watch criticised
Thursday’s decision as an impediment
to religious freedom in Russia.
“The supreme court’s ruling to shut
down the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia
is a terrible blow to freedom of religion
and association in Russia,” said Rachel
Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia
director at Human Rights Watch.
The rights group also expressed concern
that if the ruling takes effect, Jehovah’s
Witnesses could face criminal
prosecution and punishment ranging
from fines to prison time.

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