Russians will no longer have to dread the doorbell.
On Thursday, Russia's Supreme Court ruled that Jehovah's Witnesses was an "extremist" organization after the justice ministry applied for an order to shut down the group's national headquarters near St Petersburg, Russian TASS news agency reported. Russian authorities had 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, a description the organization says is false.
In its lawsuit the Justice Ministry mentioned various violations, exposed by a snap check of the organization’s activities, including those of the federal law on resistance to extremist activities. The Justice Ministry wanted the organization and its 395 local chapters to be declared as extremist and outlawed and its properties to be confiscated.
The Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses told TASS it found this affair very worrisome, because a future decision would concern 175,000 practicing believers. ACJW spokesman Ivan Bilenko said the organization was prepared to seek protection of its rights in courts of any instance.
A court in Moscow on October 12, 2016 warned Jehovah’s Witnesses over what it ruled was extremist activities. Under Russian legislation the religious organization in question is to be closed down if it fails to eliminate the exposed violations within the required deadline or if new evidence of its extremist activities come to light. The Moscow City Court on January 16, 2017 upheld the warning over extremism handed to Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses group in Russia has said it will appeal against the court’s ruling.