Russian investigators open new criminal case into Jehovah’s Witnesses, searches under way

Russian investigators open new criminal case into Jehovah's Witnesses, searches under way

Russia on Tuesday opened a new criminal case into Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Russian Investigative Committee said on Tuesday, adding that the religion’s management centre had illegally resumed working.

Russian investigators said searches were under way in more than 20 different regions across the country in connection with the investigation.

Russia’s Supreme Court ruled in 2017 that the group was an “extremist” organisation and ordered it to disband, a decision that was followed by a crackdown which has seen dozens of adherents detained and hundreds hit with criminal charges.

Religious life in Russia is dominated by the Orthodox Church, which exerts considerable political influence and enjoys the support of President Vladimir Putin. Some Orthodox scholars view Jehovah’s Witnesses as a ‘totalitarian sect’.

Russian authorities have put several of the group’s publications on a list of banned extremist literature and prosecutors have long cast it as an organization that destroys families, fosters hatred and threatens lives.

The group, a United States-based Christian denomination known for its door-to-door preaching and rejection of military service and blood transfusions, says this description is false.

The religious organization has expanded around the world and has about eight million active followers. It has faced court proceedings in several countries, mostly over its pacifism and rejection of blood transfusions, but Russia has been most outspoken in portraying it as an extremist cult.

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