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Russia's Supreme Court upholds ban on Jehovah's Witnesses

Russia's Supreme Court upholds ban on Jehovah's Witnesses

The Supreme Court of Russian Federation has dismissed a counter lawsuit filed by the Jehovah's Witnesses religious organization against the Justice Ministry seeking to declare its actions unlawful and to recognize organization's members as victims of political repressions, RAPSI reported from the courtroom on Wednesday.

Additionally, individual Jehovah's Witnesses would become subject to criminal prosecution for carrying out their worship activities.

"Millions of people around the world will be watching carefully to see how the case progresses and if Russian Federation acts to protect its own law-abiding citizens who are Jehovah's Witnesses".

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"Checks have found that the organisation is in breach of the law on resistance to extremism". "In particular, the organization's religious literature forbids blood transfusion for its members in defiance of the doctors' recommendation".

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The condemnation of the Russian action follows a lawsuit lodged at the country's Supreme Court on 15 March to declare the Jehovah's Witnesses Administrative Center "extremist", to liquidate it, and to ban its activity. As the case began in Moscow on Wednesday, lawyers representing the movement submitted a counter suit, asking the High Court to declare its members victims of political repression and the justice ministry's action unlawful.

The Russian branch of Jehovah's Witnesses argued that "extremism is profoundly alien to the Bible-based beliefs and morality" of members of their religion, Newsweek reported. Jehovah's Witnesses spokesman Ivan Bilenko said the organisation was prepared to press for its rights in any courts.

The claim also seeks to ban the activities of the Administrative Centre. If the organisation in question fails to eliminate the exposed violations within the established deadlines, or if new evidence of its extremist activities surfaces, it is to be closed down.

The suspension order imposed on March 15 is the latest in a series of judicial cases and orders, including a warning sent to the organization a year ago referring to the "inadmissibility of extremist activity".

"The court ruled to reject the counterclaim taking into account the fact that the party violated the jurisdiction rules", the judge announced. In Russia, it had 21 local organisations but three of them were shut down for extremism.

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