Supreme Court bans Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia

  • Supreme Court bans Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia

Supreme Court bans Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia

The justice ministry urged the court to close the group's national headquarters near St Petersburg, Russian news agencies reported, in addition to banning some of its "extremist" publications.

Jehovah's Witnesses first registered as a religious group in Russian Federation in 1991 and registered again in 1999.

Supreme Court judge Yury Ivanenko said Russia 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".

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.

The government has cracked down on the group in recent years, imposing fines on congregations and occasionally arresting leaders perceived to be stoking anti-government sentiment.

Jehovah's Witnesses will not be able to congregate for worship at their church or anywhere else. Anyone found with large quantities of Jehovah's Witnesses' banned materials can be held responsible for the misdemeanor offense of distributing "extremist" materials.

Jehovah's Witnesses has a history of persecution, including in Nazi Germany.

The Justice Ministry case followed an unannounced inspection, started in February 2017, of the Jehovah's Witnesses Administrative Center in St. Petersburg.

Stacks of religious booklets sit in a courtroom after a local Jehovah's Witnesses leader was charged with inciting religious hatred for distributing literature about his beliefs in the Siberian town of Gorno-Altaysk, Russia, on December 16, 2010.

The religious organisation has over 175,000 members in Russian Federation. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2010 that the move had violated the right to freedom of religion and association.

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.