ANKARA (AA) – The European Union on Friday condemned a Russian court for its recent banning of activities by the Jehovah’s Witnesses religious group.
On Thursday, Russia’s Supreme Court banned the Christian sect’s activities in the country, alleging “extremist” behavior by the group.
The court’s decision could leave the group open to criminal prosecution, although the Jehovah’s Witnesses have 30 days to appeal.
In a statement, the EU said the ruling could criminalize the group and insisted all religious bodies “must be able to peacefully enjoy freedom of assembly without interference, as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Russian Federation as well as by Russia's international commitments and international human rights standards”.
Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia have described the ruling as an attempt to “liquidate” the group.
“We are greatly disappointed by this development and deeply concerned about how this will affect our religious activity,” according to Yaroslav Sivulskiy, a spokesman for the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia.
“We will appeal this decision, and we hope that our legal rights and protections as a peaceful religious group will be fully restored as soon as possible.”