By Bankole Wright
Russia’s Supreme Court on Thursday declared Jehovah’s Witness as an extremist organization and ordered the state to seize its property in Russia. The court, after six days of hearings, ordered the closing of the group’s Russia headquarters and its 395 local chapters.
The Interfax news agency quoted Justice Ministry attorney Svetlana Borisova in court as saying the Jehovah’s Witnesses pose a threat to Russians.
‘They pose a threat to the rights of the citizens, public order and public security,’ she told the court.
Confirming the ruling, the religious group said:
‘We are greatly disappointed by this development and deeply concerned about how this will affect our religious activity,”
Yaroslav Sivulskiy, a spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, said in emailed comments.
‘We will appeal this decision, and we hope that our legal rights and protections as a peaceful religious group will be fully restored as soon as possible, the statement added. Interfax news agency quoted Sergei Cherepanov, a Jehovah’s Witnesses representative, as saying that the group will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. ‘We will do everything possible,’ he said.
The ban would directly affect around 175,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses followers, a group which was legally registered as a religious group in Russia in 1991 and re-registered in 1999.