Reuters MOSCOW (Reuters) — Russia’s Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that Jehovah’s Witnesses were an “extremist” organization and must disband and hand over all property to the state, local media said.
The religious group confirmed the ruling about its “liquidation” in Russia.
“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.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia have 30 days to submit their appeal for consideration by a three-person panel.
Religious life in Russia is dominated by the Orthodox Church, which exerts considerable political influence and enjoys the support of President Vladimir Putin. Some Orthodox scholars view Jehovah’s Witnesses as a “totalitarian sect.”
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.
Russian authorities have put several of the group’s publications on a list of banned extremist literature and prosecutors have long cast it as an organization that destroys families, fosters hatred and threatens lives.