Mon, 22 Jul 2019

KAZAKHSTAN: Fined for worship, funeral prayer rooms

Forum 18
12 Jul 2019, 04:57 GMT+10

Bolat Isabayev was fined for leading a home worship meeting on the most sacred day annually for Jehovah's Witnesses. A court fined two ethnic Azeri imams in Zhambyl Region for maintaining funeral prayer rooms without state approval. Police fined or tried to fine up to 20 members of Karaganda's Revival Protestant Church after raiding a birthday party.

On 2 July, Aktobe Regional Court rejected Bolat Isabayev's appeal against a fine of three weeks' average wages for leading a meeting for worship in a home on the Jehovah's Witnesses' most sacred commemoration of the year, the Memorial of Jesus Christ's death. Police had raided the 19 April meeting in Kandyagash, allegedly after complaints from neighbours.

Aktobe Regional COurt Zhanagul Zhursin (RFE/RL) After police discovered two funeral prayer rooms in Merke District in the southern Zhambyl Region on 4 March, two imams of the local Azeri community were fined in mid-May for maintaining the prayer rooms without state registration. One of them had tried to gain state registration - and therefore the official right to exist - but the application had been returned (see below).

The state has allowed only one Muslim community in the entire country to register: the state-controlled Muslim Board. All mosques must be subject to it to be allowed to exist. Independent mosques and mosques catering mainly to one ethnic group are banned.

Police have repeatedly fined or tried to fine up to about 20 members of Revival Protestant Church in the central city of Karaganda after their mass raid on a birthday party in November 2018. The Church has fewer than 50 adult members, so is therefore too small to be able to apply for state registration and therefore does not officially have the right to exist. The police officer who issued most of the summary fines refused to explain why they had been punished for meeting in a home (see below).

In February 2019, police raided a Hare Krishna gathering in the Caspian port city of Atyrau. In February and March, police in the southern city of Taraz raided three local Council of Churches Baptist congregations, fining a number of church members.

The punishments are among more than 80 administrative cases brought against individuals and communities between January and June 2019 to punish them for exercising freedom of religion or belief (see forthcoming F18News article).

Kazakhstan imposes tight restrictions on all meetings for worship. State permission is needed for a community to be allowed to meet and the location of any meeting also needs state permission. Religious literature is subject to compulsory pre-publication censorship and can be distributed only in state-approved venues. Sharing faith with others without state permission is also banned.

Kandyagash: Punished for Jehovah's Witness meeting

On the evening of 19 April, 13 guests gathered in a home in the Dostyk district of Kandyagash in the western Aktobe Region to commemorate the Memorial of Jesus Christ's death, the Jehovah's Witnesses' most sacred commemoration of the year. Guests watched a video, prayed, sang hymns and then shared bread and wine.

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