A Russian court on Monday banned the activities of the Moscow branch of the Church of Scientology, in the latest round in a long-running battle between the Russian authorities and the US-based organisation, Russian news agencies reported.
The Moscow City Court backed a justice ministry request to shutter the church in Moscow after authorities argued in part that since the Church of Scientology had registered its name as a US trademark, it cannot call itself a religious organisation, Russian news wires said.
The word Scientology is a registered US trademark, according to the Church’s website.
“The suit filed by the ministry of justice for the liquidation must be enacted,” Russian news agency RIA Novosti quoted judge Mikhail Kazakov as saying.
The church slammed the court decision and pledged to appeal to Russia’s supreme court.
“When decisions like this are handed down, actually everyone loses, and this decision affects not only the Church of Scientology of Moscow. This decision is a sign of disease in the justice system,” the church’s Moscow branch said in a statement.
“The court upheld what representatives of the Church believe to be a biased policy pursued by the Ministry of Justice toward the Church of Scientology of Moscow.”
Russia’s justice ministry has long been pushing to prohibit the organisation, which some countries treat as a legitimate faith but others consider to be a cult.
The ruling by a Moscow City Court came after a lower-level district court rejected the church’s appeal against a justice ministry’s decision not to register it as a religious organisation.
The Russian justice ministry registers religious organisations as well as NGOs, a requirement for them to operate.
In August, Moscow investigators said separately that they had opened a criminal probe after finding hidden microphones and cameras in the Moscow church’s premises.
The Scientology Church was founded in the United States in 1954 by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard and was accorded the status of religion there in 1993.
The European Court of Human Rights has several times ruled in favour of the church, saying that Russia violated its rights by refusing to register its churches in various regions.
Prominent scientologists include Hollywood stars Tom Cruise and John Travolta.
Prosecutor spills details about Bill Barr’s ‘unprecedented, unnecessary and unexplained’ efforts to oust him
Geoffrey Berman, the man who until recently served as the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, told members of Congress on Thursday about Attorney General Bill Barr's "unprecedented, unnecessary and unexplained" efforts to oust him.
In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Berman explained how Barr contacted him and repeatedly pressed him to step down from his position at SDNY to take another high-profile position within the government.
Berman, however, told Barr that he wanted to stay at his current job until a replacement was nominated by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the United States Senate.
Seoul mayor found dead after ‘#MeToo allegations’
Seoul's outspoken mayor Park Won-soon, long seen as a potential South Korean presidential candidate, was found dead, police said Friday. He was 64.
A former Seoul City employee filed a police complaint -- allegedly involving sexual harassment -- against him on Wednesday.
Park's body was found on a mountain in northern Seoul, police said, hours after hundreds of officers started searching for him.
If Park does prove to have killed himself he would be the highest-profile South Korean politician to do so since former president Roh Moo-hyun, who jumped off a cliff in 2009 after being questioned over corruption allegations involving family members.