The European Court of Human Rights declared illegal on Thursday a ruling by a Russian court in 2004 to dissolve the Moscow branch of the Jehovah's Witnesses.
It ordered Russia to pay 70,000 euros to the movement's members.
Russia's Committee of Salvation NGO lodged a suit demanding a halt to the activities of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Moscow in 1995. The Christian-based movement responded with a countersuit at the Strasbourg court in October 2001.
In March 2004, a Moscow district court dissolved the organization, which Russia considers a sect, and banned its activities. It said the "sect" encouraged its younger members to disown their families, commit suicide and neglect their civic duties.
The Strasbourg court said the Moscow court's ruling lacked sufficient grounds and was "too strict a measure."
Under the European Convention on Human Rights, Russia or the applicants have three months to appeal the ruling in the court's Grand Chamber.
The Jehovah's Witnesses, with up to seven million believers worldwide and 300,000 in Russia, have already been banned in a number of former Soviet republics.
The group, best known for its door-to-door evangelistic work, was founded in the United States at the end of the 19th century. It believes that Judgement Day will soon be upon us.
PARIS, June 10 (RIA Novosti)