Russian Supreme Court Bans Jehovah's Witnesses

Russia's supreme court on Thursday banned Jehovah's Witnesses from operating anywhere in the country, accepting a request from the justice ministry that the religious organizaion be considered an extremist group.  The court ordered the closure of the group's Russian Headquaters and its 395 local chapters, as well as the seisure of its property.  Justic Minister attorney Svetlana Borisova said that Jehovah's Witnesses poses a threat to Russians, "They pose a threat to the rights of citizens, public order and public security,"  She told the court.  

Borisova also said that Jehovah's Witnesses' opposition to blood transfusions violates Russian health care laws.

Jehovah's Witnesses said they would appeal the ruling.

Human Rights Watch criticized Thursday's decision as an impediment to religious freedom in Russia. The rights group also expressed concern that if the ruling takes effect, Jehovah's Witnesses could face criminal prosecution and punishment ranging from fines to prison time.
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