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Russia's Supreme Court to consider Jehovah's Witnesses ban

Russia's Supreme Court to consider Jehovah's Witnesses ban

Russia's Supreme Court to consider Jehovah's Witnesses ban

Russia's Supreme Court may declare Jehovah's Witnesses an extremist organization at a hearing Wednesday, which means the Jehovah's Witnesses headquarters would be seized and their organized worship banned in the country.

The court, however, said it's "ineligible to review this lawsuit" because other courts are responsible for determining whether a person or group have been politically repressed.

"The Russian government is claiming that the Jehovah's Witnesses are an extremist group, but in fact it's their move to ban them outright that appears to be extreme", said Maina Kiai, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association.

Andrei Sivak, a Russian elder of the Jehovah's Witnesses, was arrested in 2010 after undercover security officers infiltrated services and secretly filmed him leading worship. "It is of great concern".

The religious organisation had asked the court to declare the government's actions unlawful and recognise the group was facing political persecution, the Russian Legal Information Agency reported on Wednesday. The Administrative Centre of Jehovah's Witnesses is a head organization managing local branches of Jehovah's Witnesses across Russian Federation. "If the claim is satisfied, it would entail catastrophic consequences for the freedom of religion in Russian Federation".

The extremism law does not require the existence of violence for any activity to banned as extremist.

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The Jehovah's Witnesses have strongly denied the accusations against it, arguing that "extremism is profoundly alien to the Bible-based beliefs and morality" of members of the faith.

The suit also seeks to ban the activities of the Administrative Center.

The Supreme Court's judgment regarding the Justice Ministry's motion is expected to be announced on April 5.

The Moscow City Court on January 16 upheld the warning over extremist activities.

This has already led to the dissolution of several local Jehovah's Witness organizations, raids against their premises and literature being confiscated.

A ban would directly affect around 400 of its groups and impact on all of its 2,277 religious groups in Russian Federation which it said united 175,000 followers.

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