Russia's Supreme Court has banned the Jehovah's Witnesses from operating in the country, accepting a request from the justice ministry that the religious organization be considered an extremist group.
The court ordered the closure of the group's Russia headquarters and its 395 local chapters, as well as the seizure of its property.
The Interfax news agency on Thursday quoted Justice Ministry attorney Svetlana Borisova in court as saying that the Jehovah's Witnesses "pose a threat to the rights of the citizens, public order and public security."
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The Jehovah's Witnesses claim more than 170,000 adherents in Russia. The group has come under increasing pressure over the past year, including a ban on distributing literature deemed to violate Russia's anti-extremism laws.
Vasily Kalin, a Jehovah’s Witnesses leader in Russia, told The New York Times earlier this month that his family had been deported to Siberia when he was a child and feared the same thing happening to his children.
“Never did I expect that we would again face the threat of religious persecution in modern Russia,” he said.