Russia’s Supreme Court has ruled that Jehovah’s Witnesses is an extremist organization and ordered the state to seize its property in Russia, according to Russian news media.
The court, after six days of hearings, ordered the closure of the group’s Russia headquarters and its 395 local chapters.
Interfax news agency quoted Sergei Cherepanov, a Jehovah’s Witnesses representative, as saying that the group will appeal the decision in the European Court of Human Rights.
“We will do everything possible,” he said.
Russian authorities have put several of the group’s publications on a list of banned extremist literature and prosecutors have long cast it as an organisation that destroys families, fosters hatred and threatens lives.
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.
The religious organisation has expanded around the world and has about eight million active followers. It has faced court proceedings in several countries, mostly over its pacifism and rejection of blood transfusions, but its Russia which has been most outspoken in portraying it as an extremist cult.
Its Russian branch, based near St Petersburg, has regularly rejected this allegation. It has said a ban would directly affect around 400 of its groups and have an impact on all of its 2,277 religious groups in Russia, where it says it has 175,000 followers.