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Supreme Court bans Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia

Supreme Court bans Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia

Russia's Supreme Court has declared Jehovah's Witnesses an extremist organization, ordering its assets liquidated and banning all activities in the country, Russian state media reported Thursday.

The court made the ruling after the justice ministry applied for an order to shut down the group's national headquarters near St Petersburg.

The religious organisation has expanded around the world and has about eight million active followers.

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The group, a United States-based nontrinitarian Christian denomination known for its door-to-door preaching and rejection of military service and blood transfusions, says this description is false.

"I'm shocked", Yaroslav Sivulsky, who represents the group's administrative centre, told reporters.

The Jehovah's Witnesses claim more than 170,000 adherents in Russian Federation.

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"I didn't expect that this could be possible in modern Russian Federation, where the constitution guarantees freedom of religious practice". The group has come under increasing pressure over the past year, including a ban on distributing literature deemed to violate Russia's anti-extremism laws.

Jehovah's Witnesses pray at a regional congress at Traktar Stadium in Minsk, Belarus, July 25, 2015.

Sergei Cherepanov, a Jehovah's Witnesses representative, was quoted as saying that the group will appeal the decision in the European court of human rights.

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