Russian Supreme Court Upholds Jehovah’s Witness Ban

Participants attend hearing on justice ministry request to ban Jehovah's Witnesses at Russia's Supreme Court in Moscow / Getty


The Russian Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal and allowed Russia's nationwide ban on on Jehovah's Witnesses to go forward.

The ruling allows the Russian government to seize the property of 395 Jehovah's Witness congregations, the Associated Press reports. There are about 170,000 Witnesses in Russia.

The ruling came after a move by the Russian Justice Ministry in April to declare Jehovah's Witnesses an "extremist group," the Washington Free Beacon reported at the time. A Justice Ministry attorney had said that Jehovah's Witnesses "pose a threat to the rights of the citizens, public order, and public security," and attacked the group for its refusal to accept blood transfusions.

The Witnesses appealed the order and brought the matter before the Russian Supreme Court, which has now sided with the government.

Russian prosecutors have long accused the Witnesses of destroying families, fostering hatred, and threatening lives. The Witnesses reject this description.

"It's very concerning that despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, powerful elements within Russia continue to frame our organization as extremist," said Jehovah's Witnesses spokesman David Semonian. The group's attorney, Viktor Zhenkov, announced his intent to appeal the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

The Witnesses have won at the ECHR before. In 2010, they were the victors in a case against the Russian government that overturned another decision to outlaw the group.

Charles Fain Lehman

Charles Fain Lehman   Email Charles | Full Bio | RSS
Charles Fain Lehman is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He writes about policy, covering crime, law, drugs, immigration, and social issues. Reach him on twitter (@CharlesFLehman) or by email at

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