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Russia bans Jehovah’s Witnesses as ‘extremist’ organisation

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MOSCOW — Russia’s Supreme Court has banned Jehovah’s Witnesses religious group on Thursday, ruling that the group is an “extremist” organisation and ordering it to hand over all its property to the state.

The religious grouping confirmed the ruling about its “liquidation” in Russia.

“We are greatly disappointed by this development and deeply concerned about how this will affect our religious activity,” Yaroslav Sivulskiy, a spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, said in emailed comments.

“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.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia have 30 days to submit their appeal for consideration by a three-person panel.

ALSO READ :  9 Syrians freeze to death while crossing to Lebanon

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”.

Interfax news agency quoted Sergei Cherepanov, a Jehovah’s Witnesses representative, as saying that the group will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

“We will do everything possible,” he said.

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 organisation 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 organisation has expanded around the world and has about 8 million active followers.
 

 

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9 Syrians freeze to death while crossing to Lebanon

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BEIRUT — At least nine Syrians froze to death crossing into Lebanon when an icy storm hit a smuggling route in the mountains near a border post with Syria in the early hours of Friday, Lebanon’s army says.

Military officials said in a statement the Syrians, including two children and six women, were caught in a strong snowstorm while trying to cross the mountainous frontier between the two nations.

The military said in a statement that the bodies were found on a people-smuggling route in the early hours of Friday after a snowstorm hit the Masnaa area, where Lebanon’s largest official border crossing with Syria is located.

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“The army saved six other displaced Syrians, one of whom died later in a hospital from frostbite,” the statement added, raising the death toll to 10.

“The bodies were taken to the hospitals in the area, and the army continues to search for other displaced people trapped in the snow, in order to evacuate them and provide medical treatment for them.”

The army arrested two Syrians on smuggling charges and is still searching for others lost in the snow.

Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan have now all closed their border crossings to Syrian refugees.

Syrians wishing to enter Lebanon must prove to Lebanese authorities they have reason to be in Lebanon, such as property ownership, an embassy appointment, or a residency permit.

Reuters/AP

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