Russia’s Supreme Court bans Jehovah’s Witnesses, calls it extremist organization

Russia has banned Jehovah’s Witnesses after the Supreme Court ruled the Christian sect to be an “extremist” group.

The ministry of justice had applied for an order to shut down its national headquarters near St Petersburg, state media reported.

Its administrative centre, which has 175,000 members, had previously been suspended in March over alleged “extremist activity”.

Jehovah’s Witnesses first registered as a religious group in Russia in 1991 and registered again in 1999, but have been targeted repeatedly by authorities in a wide-ranging crackdown on religious freedom..

Russia changed its legal definition of extremism in 2006, removing requirement for violence or hatred but stating the “incitement of….religious discord” as criteria.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses international website was blocked in Russia two years ago in Russia over alleged extremism, with the group’s Bibles banned the following year.

In 2010, the European Court of Human Rights found a previous ruling by a Russian court to ban the organisation “unlawful”.

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