07 April, 2017
Russia's government has launched a Supreme Court bid to outlaw Jehovah's Witnesses and have the movement declared an extremist organisation.
The iconic Watchtower sign is seen on the roof of the current world headquarters of the Jehovah's Witnesses, in the Brooklyn borough of NY.
There are more than 170,000 Jehovah's Witnesses in Russian Federation, according to the USA -based religion's website.
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If the Supreme Court upholds this claim, the Witnesses' national headquarters near St. Petersburg will be shut down.
Russian struggle for Jehovah's Witnesses The group was founded in the USA in the late 19th Century and during Joseph Stalin's reign of terror in the Soviet Union it was outlawed and thousands of members were deported to Siberia. "In particular, the organisation's religious literature forbids blood transfusion for its members in defiance of the doctors' recommendation", the spokeswoman said, providing documentary evidence about one such case.
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The Jehovah's Witnesses filed a counter lawsuit against the Justice Ministry, calling its actions unlawful and asking the court to recognize the organization's members as victims of political repression.
"In view of the threat posed by the organisation Jehovah's Witnesses, the Justice Ministry asks for declaring it extremist and banning its activity", the Justice Ministry's official said.
On June 9, 2015, the Jehovah's Witnesses of Belgorod was banned as extremist organization. At a session of the Supreme Court Thursday, a spokesperson for the Justice Ministry argued that the stance meant the organization violated the anti-extremism law that was passed following Russia's second war in Chechnya in 1999 and 2000 and the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.
In January 2014, a court in Kurgan ruled to ban the organization's booklets as extremist.
"The court ruled to reject the counterclaim taking into account the fact that the party violated the jurisdiction rules", the judge announced.
In 2004, a court in Moscow dissolved and banned a Jehovah's Witnesses group on charges of recruiting children, encouraging believers to break from their families, inciting suicide and preventing believers from accepting medical assistance.