“Totalitarian sect”

Publicity for Jehovah's Witnesses © dpa

Russia's Orthodox Church has welcomed the ban on Jehovah's Witnesses by the country's Supreme Court. Jehovah's Witnesses are a "totalitarian sect" and dangerous, said Metropolitan Hilarion.

He knows this because he has spoken several times with former members of the religious community. The head of the foreign office of the Orthodox Moscow Patriarchate made the following comments to Russian television, according to the Interfax news agency.

Merkel criticizes ban

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) criticized the ban on Jehovah's Witnesses during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia. At the joint press conference, she called on Putin to protect the human rights of minorities in his country and referred to the rights of Jehovah's Witnesses as well as homosexuals.

The Catholic Church in Russia had also rebuked the court decision against Jehovah's Witnesses. All religious communities have a right to exist, the secretary general of the Russian Bishops' Conference, Igor Kovalevsky, said over the weekend. At the same time, he expressed concern that the ruling could also fuel fears of new restrictions on the Catholic Church in the country. He said the government must are citizens "that freedom of conscience will remain".

Classification as an extremist group

Russia's Supreme Court had ruled on 20. On April 1, at the request of the Ministry of Justice, the Jehovah's Witnesses were classified as an extremist group because they threatened public order and destroyed families. The group's headquarters and its 395 regional associations would be closed, their property confiscated, it said. According to human rights activists, Jehovah's Witnesses who continue to practice their faith could face prosecution, fines or up to ten years in prison in the future.

Jehovah's Witnesses were registered in Russia in 1991 and again in 1999, but are frequently subjected to detentions and police raids due to note distribution campaigns and sermons at front doors. Its members have been repeatedly attacked and their property destroyed.

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