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Jul 17, 2:44 PM EDT

Russian Supreme Court upholds ban on Jehovah's Witnesses


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MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia's Supreme Court has rejected an appeal of its nationwide ban on the Jehovah's Witnesses religious denomination.

The court's appeals chamber has upheld the April approval of the Russian Justice Ministry's call to halt Jehovah's Witnesses activities and to declare it an extremist organization.

The rejection of the religious group's appeal allows Russia to liquidate the 395 Jehovah's Witnesses congregations and seize their property. The group claims about 170,000 adherents in Russia.

Jehovah's Witnesses spokesman David Semonian said in a statement that "it's very concerning that despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, powerful elements within Russia continue to frame our organization as extremist."

Viktor Zhenkov, a Russian attorney for the group, said Monday's ruling would be appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, according to the Interfax news agency.

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