Following years of investigations and government suspicion, the Russian Justice Ministry has moved to label Christian group Jehovah’s Witnesses an ‘extremist organization’.
The ministry has also filed a lawsuit at the country’s Supreme Court against the group’s Rusian chapter.
According to USA Today, the lawsuit is yet to be dated and has not yet been scheduled for any legal action. If approved, it will directly affect about 175,000 followers at more than 2,000 congregations in the country.
The press office of the Russian chapter of the church released a statement on Thursday in response to the development, stating that if approved, it will “entail disastrous consequences for freedom of religion in Russia”.
“Extremism is deeply alien to the Bible-based beliefs and morality of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Persecution of the faithful for peaceful anti-extremism legislation is built on frank fraud, incompetent individual ‘experts’ and, as a result, a miscarriage of justice,” the statement claimed.
This is not the first time Jehovah’s Witnesses church will face legal battle, as in 2009, a court barred the release of the Russian version of its publication The Watchtower.
In 2015, a Russian court also ruled that the group’s website is an extremist publication.
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