Spokane-area Jehovah's Witnesses decried the Russian Supreme Court's decision Thursday to ban the religion from operating anywhere in the country, after the court accepted a request from the justice ministry that the religious organization be considered an extremist group.
Russia's Justice Ministry had sought the order, which the group said it will appeal.
The group, which says it has more than 170,000 followers in Russian Federation, has said it is "shocked" and will appeal against the decision in the European Court of Human Rights. Under Russian legislation the religious organization in question is to be closed down if it fails to eliminate the exposed violations within the required deadline or if new evidence of its extremist activities comes to light.
Sivulsky added that the group would take its case to the European Court of Human Rights if its appeal was rejected.
"We fear that people will end up in jail", he said.
Its Russian branch, based near St Petersburg, 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.
But Russian authorities have long claimed the group destroys families, fosters hatred and threatens lives and it has come under increasing pressure in the past year. It found the group was still funding chapters previously banned for extremism.
In 2004, Moscow dissolved a branch of the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Jehovah's Witnesses believe in a distinct version of Christianity with its own interpretation of the Bible.
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