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Russia Supreme Court bans Jehovah's Witness congregation

[JURIST] The Russian Supreme Court [official website, in Russian] upheld a lower court decision [press release, in Russian] to shut down the Taganrog Jehovah's Witness congregation and ban the distribution of 34 Jehovah's Witness publications on Tuesday. Both the Jehovah's Witness congregation and the publications are "extremist," the Supreme Court said [Forum 18 report] in its decision. In response to the Supreme Court's decision, Chairman of the Presiding Committee of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, Vasily Kalin, said [press release]:

I am very concerned that this decision will open a new era of opposition against Jehovah's Witnesses, whose right to meet in peace, to access religious literature and to share the Christian hope contained in the Gospels, is more and more limited. When I was young I was sent to Siberia for being one of Jehovah's Witnesses and because my parents were reading The Watchtower, the same journal being unjustly declared 'extremist' in these proceedings.

A Moscow-based Jehovah's Witness congregation was previously banned [JURIST report] in 2004. Leaders of that congregation joined a lawsuit already pending in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] over the harassment of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia. The case has not yet been considered. In a separate case, the ECHR ruled [judgment text] in 2007 that Russia violated Article 9 of European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF] by failing to register the Chelyabinsk congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses.

The US Department of State (DOS) [official website] chronicled the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses and other religious minorities in Russia [report] in its 2009 International Freedom of Religion Report [JURIST report]. In October, the ECHR ruled [JURIST report] that Russia interfered with freedom of religion by refusing to register two Scientology groups as "religious organizations." In February, the Court ruled [JURIST report] that that the Russian government was guilty of infringing on US missionary Patrick Nolan's religious freedoms and other human rights by expelling him from the country in 2002 under national security pretenses.

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