European court: Russian ban on Jehovah's Witnesses illegal

Strasbourg, France - The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday ruled that the 2004 court ban on a Moscow Jehovah's Witnesses community was illegal.

The ban was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights articles on freedom of thought, conscience, worship and assembly, the Strasbourg-based court said in a statement. The European court also accused the Russian authorities of denying the Jehovah's Witnesses community the right to timely and fair litigation.

The community filed five unsuccessful appeals for re-registration with the Russian government between October 20, 1999, and January 12, 2001, the court said in a statement.

In March 2004, a court banned the community, accusing it of encouraging suicide, of forcing some of its members to avoid medical assistance for religious reasons, of drawing minors into religious activities against their will and without their parents' consent, of causing families to fall apart, and of infringing on personal rights and freedoms.