Jehovah’s Witnesses “pose a threat to the rights of citizens, public order and public security”. Members and leaders of the group are concerned, will appeal.
Moscow (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Russia's Supreme Court has accepted a request from the Justice Ministry to ban the Jehovah’s Witnesses as an extremist group. The sentence follows a postponement of the case on 11 April.
Government officials have accused the religion of destroying families, propagating hatred and endangering lives. It poses “a threat to the rights of citizens, public order and public security,” Justice Ministry attorney Svetlana Borisova told the court. She added that Jehovah's Witnesses' opposition to blood transfusions violates Russian health care laws.
Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia have 30 days to submit their appeal for consideration by a three-person panel. "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,” said Yaroslav Sivulskiy, a spokesman for Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia
Sergei Cherepanov, a Jehovah's Witnesses representative, announced that the group will also appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. The latter ruled in 2010 that the ban violates the right to freedom of religion and association.
In Russia, Jehovah’s Witnesses number 172,000 in 397 registered centres, plus 2,500 not approved by the government. For the Russian Orthodox Church is critical of the religious group, they are a "destructive sect".
For their part, one pamphlet distributed by the group quoted the novelist Leo Tolstoy as describing the doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church as superstition and sorcery.
Under Joseph Stalin's regime, the group, founded in the United States in the 19th century, was outlawed and thousands of its members were deported to Siberia. When the Soviet Union began collapsing, the ban on Jehovah's Witnesses was lifted in 1991.
Since then, attitudes towards the movement have hardened and in 2004 it was accused of recruiting children, preventing believers from accepting medical assistance, and rejecting military service.
Eventually, Russian authorities dissolved the Moscow branch of the Jehovah’s Witnesses who appealed to the European Court of Human Rights.