Russia’s Supreme Court ruled on Thursday banned Jehovah’s Witnesses from the country, on the grounds that it is an “extremist” organization.
The court also ordered the religious organization to disband and hand over all property to the state, local media said.
The religious grouping confirmed the ruling about its “liquidation” in Russia.
“We are greatly disappointed by this development and deeply concerned about how this will affect our religious activity,” Yaroslav Sivulskiy, a spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, said in emailed comments.
“We will appeal this decision, and we hope that our legal rights and protections as a peaceful religious group will be fully restored as soon as possible.”
Four former members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses had told a Russia’s Supreme Court how they were brainwashed by the church against receiving higher education or starting a family.
A wtiness, Natalia Koretskaya from St. Petersburg had told the court she had been a member of that organisation from 1995 to 2009 and had realised over this period that the organisation’s members “were living under full and total control of the [Jehovah’s Witnesses] Administrative Centre.”
“The heads of the Jehovah’s Witnesses formally watch canonical compliance with the norms but in real fact the talk is about total control of an individual’s personal life – his intimate life, education and work,” Koretskaya told the court.
Koretskaya said she had been expelled from the religious organisation and its members had been banned to communicate with her after she started close but officially unregistered relationship with a man.
“Therefore, a person turns out to be expelled into the outer world, in which he has already forgotten how to live over the years of his stay in the organisation,” Koretskaya added.
Justice Yury Ivanenko in his verdict on Thursday, said Russia had decided to close down “the administrative centre of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the local organisations in its fold and turn their property over to the Russian Federation.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia have 30 days to submit their appeal for consideration by a three-person panel.