Russia Supreme Court bans Jehovah's Witnesses

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

"The property of the Jehovah's Witnesses organization is to be confiscated to the state revenue".

However, the ban will not come into effect until after the organization's appeal has been heard. During the Supreme Court hearing, Russia's justice ministry warned that individuals could also be persecuted under the extremism law, which was passed following the 9/11 attacks in the US and Russia's second war in Chechnya in 1999 and 2000. The Justice Ministry had asked the top court to outlaw the group on March 17, and had warned the group to end all its activity at its headquarters in St Petersburg. "If the claim is satisfied, it would entail catastrophic consequences for the freedom of religion in Russian Federation". In the whole world, Jehovah's Witnesses are known as peaceful, obedient, respectful citizens.

In 2004 Moscow dissolved a branch of the Jehovah's Witnesses.

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

The Jehovah's Witness organization, which claims some 170,000 Russian adherents, plans to appeal the ruling, Tass reports.

The religious group is to be disbanded and its assets seized by the government, according to the court's website. It claims to represent Christianity but none of the major Christian churches recognise the group.

Borisova also said Jehovah's Witnesses' opposition to blood transfusions violates Russian health care laws.

The organisation has faced court proceedings in several countries - but Russian Federation has been most outspoken in portraying it as an extremist cult.

The group was first registered in Russian Federation in 1991.

The Russian list of banned extremist organizations now contains 59 entries, a lot of them white supremacist organizations. According to the organization, there are over 8.3 million Jehovah's Witnesses worldwide in 240 "lands", and over 119,000 congregations.

As part of efforts to crackdown on the group, the authorities blocked their global website in Russian Federation and fined a local chairman in 2010 for distributing "extremist literature".

Thursday's Supreme Court ruling has also been criticised by Human Rights Watch.

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