Russia outlaws Jehovah's Witnesses as 'extremist'

Court ruling puts Christian denomination in same category as Islamic State militants
By Mike Bambach   |   April 20, 2017 at 11:41 PM
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April 20 (UPI) -- Russia's Supreme Court outlawed Jehovah's Witnesses on Thursday, putting the Christian denomination that rejects violence in the same category as Islamic State militants.

The court declared Jehovah's Witnesses an extremist organization and banned its 175,000 adherents from congregating on Russian territory.

Jehovah's Witnesses said it would appeal the decision.

The group's headquarters in St. Petersburg and 395 churches will become state property, according to the Tass news agency.

The Russian government filed suit on March 16 to outlaw the organization, which was already considered an extremist group in St. Petersburg.

Human Rights Watch criticized the decision as "a serious breach of Russia's obligations to respect and protect religious freedom."

"Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia are now given the heartrending choice of either abandoning their faith or facing punishment for practicing it," said Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Russia's Justice Ministry said Jehovah's Witnesses "violate Russia's law on combating extremism" and their pamphlets incite hatred against other groups.

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