The Supreme Court in Russia on Monday rejected an appeal launched by Jehovah’s Witnesses against the group’s ban in the country, thus upholding the ruling that sees the group as an “extremist organisation” whose members “pose a threat to the rights of the citizens, public order and public security”.
The decision of the apex court came on a single-day hearing in Moscow in which the court swiftly rejected all the defense motions put forward by representatives of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, including a request to have a religious studies scholar.
The Judges ordered the closure of the group’s Russian headquarters, local chapters and the seizure of its property by the state.
“While we were prepared for a negative ruling, it is still very disappointing,” said David Semonian, international spokesman for the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“It is very concerning that despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, powerful elements within Russia continue to frame our organisation as extremist.
“We can only hope a fair evaluation of the facts will eventually prevail and our right to worship in Russia will be legally restored.”
In April, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the justice ministry which, a month earlier, had declared Jehovah’s Witnesses an extremist organization, liquidating 395 of its local chapters as well as its headquarters in St. Petersburg.
Following yesterday’s ruling, the Christian denomination must now turn over all its properties, known as Kingdom Halls, to the Russian government.
Meanwhile, Jehovah’s Witnesses on Tuesday said it would appeal a ban on its activities in Russia at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, saying it had exhausted all other legal channels.
It was speaking a day after Russia’s Supreme Court rejected the religious group’s appeal and upheld an April ruling which declared the organisation “extremist” and ordered it to disband in Russia.
“We plan to appeal this at the European Court of Human Rights as soon as we can,” Yaroslav Sivulskiy, a member of the European Association of Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses, said by phone.
“All legal avenues inside Russia have been exhausted.”