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Reported by the BBC and others, Russia’s Supreme Court has ordered the disbanding of the Jehovah’s Witnesses on Russian territory.

The ban came into effect after the court rejected an appeal by the religious group against a ruling in April which declared it to be extremist.

The justice ministry had argued that the group distributed pamphlets which incited hatred against other groups.

The ruling has been described the ruling as the end of religious freedom in the country, where the Witnesses were also persecuted through the Stalin era. The denomination says it has 175,000 members in Russia.

The ruling effectively orders the Witnesses to close their headquarters near St Petersburg and 395 local chapters. All the groups properties, known as Kingdom Halls, are required to be handed over to the Russian government.

Russian spokesman for the Witnesses, Yaroslav Sivulsky, said that “religious freedom in Russia is over”.

“There were no real facts of any extremism on part of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s all about bad literature and intolerance. Now anyone who studies the Bible can be jailed,” he said, quoted by Newsweek magazine.

MORE DETAILS IN THIS ARTICLE AND EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW FROM WORLD RELIGION NEWS HERE

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