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  1. Emmanuel Thomas l Monday, May, 08, 2017 ASTANA, Kazakhstan – A 61 year old Jehovah’s Witness, Teymur Akhmedov has been sentensed to five year jail term in Kazakhstan for sharing his religious beliefs with others. He was sentenced May 2, 2017 in Astana, Kazakhstan. At the time he was sentenced. http://news.clickysound.com/religious-freedom-kazakhstan-jails-sick-61-year-old-jehovahs-witness-for-preaching/
  2. By Felix Corley, Forum 18 The two lawyers for a Jehovah's Witness now on trial in Astana are themselves under criminal investigation. The KNB secret police investigator accuses them of "revealing information from a pre-trial investigation" by appealing to President Nazarbayev for the case against their client to be halted. Kazakhstan's National Security Committee (KNB) secret police has opened a criminal case against two lawyers defending a Jehovah's Witness on trial for exercising freedom of religion and belief. Vitaly Kuznetsov and Natalya Kononenko are facing criminal investigation seeking to punish them for appealing to Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev for the charges against their client to be dropped. Charges were brought against the lawyers even before the trial they were working on began in the capital Astana. The KNB secret police accuses Kuznetsov and Kononenko of "revealing information from a pre-trial investigation" under Criminal Code Article 423. Kuznetsov described the accusation to Forum 18 as "absurd". An Astana-based legal specialist told Forum 18 the accusation was "bizarre" (see below). Astana Prosecutor's Office handed the case to Asilzhan Gabdykaparov of the General Prosecutor's Office, it told Forum 18 on 3 April. His telephone went unanswered the same day. KNB Major Medet Duskaziyev – who initiated the criminal cases against Jehovah's Witnesses Teymur Akhmedov and Asaf Guliyev, as well as the two lawyers Kuznetsov and Kononenko – refused to answer any of Forum 18's questions on 30 March. At the preliminary hearing of Akhmedov's criminal trial on 27 March, Prosecutor Baurzhan Kulmaganbetov tried to have Kuznetsov and Kononenko removed as his lawyers for allegedly "revealing information from a pre-trial investigation", Radio Free Europe's Kazakh Service reported after the hearing. Judge Talgat Syrlybayev of Astana's Saryarka District Court No. 2 rejected the Prosecutor's request. Akhmedov's full trial is due to begin at 10.30 am on 6 April (see below). Attempt to remove Akhmedov's lawyers During the closed part of Akhmedov's preliminary hearing, Prosecutor Kulmaganbetov tried to have Kuznetsov and Kononenko removed from defending Akhmedov. He argued that Kuznetsov is a lawyer from Sverdlovsk Region in Russia, so should not be allowed to defend his client. He also revealed – for the first time - that the criminal case had been opened against both lawyers (see below). Judge Syrlybayev rejected the Prosecutor's request. Criminal case against Akhmedov's lawyers On 20 February the lawyers Kuznetsov and Kononenko sent a 23-page appeal (plus numerous attachments) to KNB Investigator Major Duszkaziyev, who led the investigation against Akhmedov and Guliyev. The appeal asked for the case against Akhmedov to be halted "because of the absence of the elements of a crime". The lawyers argued that the "expert analyses" of the literature confiscated from Akhmedov and Guliyev should be "completely rejected as contradicting international law". They gave documentary evidence that officials and leaders of so-called "traditional" religions have made statements that are far more insulting and critical than the statements Akhmedov is accused of making. The lawyers noted that law enforcement officials stated that the words used by officials and so-called "traditional" religious leaders were lawful (see F18News 7 March 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2262). (Claims about so-called "traditional" and "non-traditional" religions are often used by the state to legitimise attacks on freedom of religion and belief - see Forum 18's Kazakhstan religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1939.) The lawyers also sent copies of their appeal to several officials and state agencies, including President Nursultan Nazarbayev and the Foreign Ministry. On 1 March the Investigator, KNB Major Duskaziyev rejected the appeal without addressing the points made (see F18News 7 March 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2262). On 16 March Major Duskaziyev opened a criminal case against the lawyers Kuznetsov and Kononenko, Astana Prosecutor's Office told Forum 18 on 30 March. The case is under Criminal Code Article 423, which punishes: "Revealing information from a pre-trial investigation by an individual warned under the law of the inadmissibility of information being revealed without the permission of the prosecutor or person undertaking the pre-trial investigation". Punishments are fines of up to 2,000 Monthly Financial Indicators, or restricted freedom or imprisonment of up to two years. However, the first time the lawyers themselves knew they were facing a criminal case was when officials told them this during the preliminary hearing of Akhmedov's criminal trial on 27 March. "To pressure the lawyers and deprive Akhmedov of his defence" An Astana legal specialist described the opening of the criminal case against Kuznetsov and Kononenko for having addressed an appeal to President Nazarbayev as "bizarre". "This is a violation of the right of an individual to be properly defended," the legal specialist told Forum 18. The legal specialist – who preferred not to be identified for fear of state reprisals – pointed out that only a limited number of lawyers are allowed to take on cases which the state regards as covering "state secrets". Kuznetsov described opening the criminal case against him and fellow lawyer Kononenko for appealing to President Nazarbayev and the Foreign Ministry on behalf of Akhmedov as "absurd". "I don't believe the President needs any permission from the investigator to know about the violations of the human rights of an individual in a state of which he is the head," Kuznetsov told Forum 18. "When we appealed to the Foreign Ministry about Akhmedov's case, the KNB had already provided the Ministry with information on the case," the lawyer told Forum 18. "They had even provided such details for example that Guliyev had admitted his guilt." Kuznetsov pointed out that even before the criminal case was launched on 16 March, the television channel Khabar had shown a video of "operational/investigative measures" against the two Jehovah's Witnesses, including a house search. "How can one talk about revealing information of the investigation to the President after information from the investigation was shown on television?" Kuznetsov asked. "It is therefore clear that this criminal case has one aim – to pressure the lawyers and deprive Akhmedov of his defence." What next for prosecution of lawyers for doing their duty? After Major Duskaziyev opened the case, the KNB secret police then handed it via Astana's Prosecutor's Office to Astana Police for investigation. "We don't know who the case has been assigned to at Astana Police," Kuznetsov told Forum 18. Despite repeated calls to Astana Police on 30 March, including to its Investigation Department and Central Chancellery for criminal cases, no official would give Forum 18 any information on the criminal case against Kuznetsov and Kononenko. Astana's Prosecutor's Office told Forum 18 on 3 April that the case against the lawyers had been handed to Asilzhan Gabdykaparov of the General Prosecutor's Office. His telephone went unanswered each time Forum 18 called the same day. Cancer sufferer Akhmedov detained and tortured, not hospitalised On 20 January Akhmedov was ordered to be held in two months' pre-trial detention, even though a report from the National Scientific Centre for Oncology and Transplantation (the national cancer centre) "recommends an operation and requests that Akhmedov undergo an examination before being hospitalised". The pre-trial detention of a cancer sufferer who needs to be hospitalised violates the United Nations (UN) Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (known as the Mandela Rules) (see F18News 2 February 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2252). "Akhmedov has two large tumours of the gastro-intestinal tract," his lawyer Kuznetsov told Forum 18. "There is no confirmed diagnosis yet that this is cancer. But it is suspected that these tumours are cancerous." The lawyer added that this would only become clear after Akhmedov has the operation he has been waiting for. While in detention Akhemdov has been tortured, which officials deny. In defiance of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, no arrests of anyone strongly suspected of having tortured prisoners of conscience (including Akhmedov) jailed or detained for exercising freedom of religion and belief appear to have been made (see F18News 7 March 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2262). Wide-ranging Criminal Code Article 174 The 60-year-old Jehovah's Witness Akhmedov – a retired bus driver - is on trial for allegedly "inciting religious hatred or discord" under the wide-ranging Criminal Code Article 174, Part 2. He denies inciting hatred of any sort. He had spoken to KNB secret police agents pretending to be students. Guliyev, arrested with him, was sentenced on 24 February to five years' restricted freedom (see F18News 7 March 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2262). Guliyev does not appear to have appealed to Astana City Court against his conviction. Criminal Code Article 174 punishes: "Incitement of social, national, clan, racial, or religious hatred or discord, insult to the national honour and dignity or religious feelings of citizens, as well as propaganda of exclusivity, superiority or inferiority of citizens on grounds of their religion, class, national, generic or racial identity, committed publicly or with the use of mass media or information and communication networks, as well as by production or distribution of literature or other information media, promoting social, national, clan, racial, or religious hatred or discord". Part 2, which Akhmedov and Guliyev have faced, punishes these actions "committed by a group of persons, a group with prior planning, repeatedly, with violence or threat of violence, or by an official, or by the leader of a public association". If convicted they face five to 10 years imprisonment, "with deprivation of the right to hold specified positions or to engage in specified activity for up to three years". The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Maina Kiai, as well as the UN Human Rights Committee and Kazakh human rights defenders have strongly criticised the broad and unclear formulation of Article 174 and other laws, as well as the prosecution of a wide range of individuals under Article 174 (see F18News 2 February 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2252). Growing number of Article 174 prosecutions Akhmedov and Guliyev are among a growing number of individuals prosecuted under Criminal Code Article 174 for exercising their rights to freedom of religion or belief and freedom of speech. Lawyers in at least some Criminal Code Article 174 cases have been forced to sign statements that they will not violate the "secrecy of the investigation", people close to several cases have told Forum 18 (see F18News 7 March 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2262) Muslim prisoner of conscience Kuanysh Bashpayev is on trial under Article 174, Part 1 for criticising the state-controlled Muslim Board. His closed trial is due to continue at Pavlodar City Court at 10.00 am on 5 April (see below). Others are still being investigated under Article 174 include: Satimzhan Azatov who met with other Astana Muslims without state permission; Imam Abdukhalil Abduzhabbarov who was extradited from Saudi Arabia and who was then immediately arrested on 18 February; and atheist writer Aleksandr Kharlamov who faces two separate Article 174 cases (see F18News 7 March 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2262). Also under arrest and under investigation is Almaty resident Denis Korzhavin. He had previously studied Islam in Saudi Arabia. However, Forum 18 has been unable to find out why he was arrested (see below). Those convicted to be stripped of citizenship? A Justice Ministry draft amendment to Criminal Code Article 174 – published on 27 March on the Ministry's website – would if adopted also allow courts to strip Kazakh citizenship from those convicted under the Article. No changes were proposed to the other existing punishments. The amendment is silent on what would happen if the only citizenship held by a convicted person was that of Kazakhstan. The proposed amendment does not explain whether this would apply only to individuals who are citizens of more than one country or citizens only of Kazakhstan. A legal specialist pointed out to Forum 18 that countries cannot strip people of citizenship to leave them stateless. "This would be a violation of international law." Akhmedov trial begins The trial of Jehovah's Witness Akhmedov began with a preliminary hearing on 27 March. He was held in the cage in the courtroom during the hearing. Akhmedov's lawyers put forward a motion to the Judge to free their client from pre-trial detention. The Prosecutor put forward a motion to have the lawyers removed from the case (see below). Although the Judge had declared the trial open, he ordered relatives and supporters out of the courtroom as he considered the requests "so as not to disturb the normal process of the trial", Bolat Abilkasimov of Ratel.kz wrote the same day. They were allowed back in only to hear his decisions on the requests. Some 20 relatives and supporters were banished from the courtroom in addition to the journalists, Abilkasimov added. The Judge's secretary claimed to them that the courtroom was too small to accommodate them. In the corridors of the court, Akhmedov's son Parviz told local journalists that his father was known among colleagues as honest and hard-working. He added that he had been praised in the press in an article entitled "The World is not without Good People". Bashpayev: secret trial continues The closed trial of Muslim prisoner of conscience Kuanysh Bashpayev under Article 174, Part 1 began under Judge Kayirbek Yelemesov at Pavlodar City Court No. 2 with a preliminary hearing on 14 February. The full trial began on 6 March (see F18News 7 March 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2262). Further hearings were held on 13, 14 and 27 March, according to court records. The trial is due to resume at 10.00 am on 5 April. Judge Yelemesov's secretary – who did not give her name – said the Judge had ordered the hearings closed "to protect the security of the victim". She confirmed to Forum 18 on 30 March that the "victim" in the case is the prominent Almaty Muslim Board imam Ersin Amire. However, she declined to say in what way he needed "protecting". She told Forum 18 she "did not have the right to give any further information on the case" and put the phone down. The 30-year-old Bashpayev gained a first degree and then began studies for a Master's degree in Islamic theology at Medina University in Saudi Arabia. Captain G. Bakirov of Pavlodar Region KNB secret police prepared the criminal case against Bashpayev after officers found recordings of his sermons on the Russian social network VKontakte on 7 April 2016, according to the 24-page indictment seen by Forum 18. Further online sermons were found on 22 May 2016. "Expert analyses" of 15 April 2016 and 20 June 2016 claim to have found Bashpayev inciting religious hatred. One of those questioned as a witness in the case was Asiya Abitova, a religious studies specialist at the state-financed Centre for Analysis and Development of Inter-confessional Relations in Pavlodar. She claimed that in his sermons, Bashpayev had described making pilgrimages to mausoleums and reading the Koran there as "shirk" (idolatry). "The official Islamic clergy of Kazakhstan do not ban visiting mausoleums or the graves of the deceased and reading verses of the Koran there," the indictment summarises Abitova's remarks. Abitova also claimed – without providing any detail - that in another sermon Bashpayev had declared it was permitted to kill those guilty of "shirk". Reached at the Centre in Pavlodar, Abitova refused to discuss her testimony with Forum 18 on 29 March 2017. Interrogated on 12 October 2016, Bashpayev refused to answer any questions, according to the indictment. He was arrested the following day (see F18News 6 February 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2253). KNB Captain Bakirov signed the indictment on 25 January 2017 and K. Bazarbayev of the Regional Prosecutor's Office counter-signed it five days later. Korzhavin: why was he arrested? Arrested in Almaty in mid-February was Denis Valeryevich Korzhavin. On 21 February Judge Maral Dzharilgasova of Almaty's Turksib District Court ordered him held in two months' pre-trial detention, the court chancellery told Forum 18 on 3 April. It added that Korzhavin is being investigated under Criminal Code Article 174, Part 1. The Special Department of Almaty's Investigation Prison No. 18 confirmed to Forum 18 on 30 March that it is holding Korzhavin. However, the official – who would not give her name – refused to discuss his conditions in prison, including whether he has access to the Koran and whether he can pray openly. Korzhavin is an ethnic Russian who converted to Islam. He then studied his faith at Medina University in Saudi Arabia before returning to Kazakhstan. Forum 18 has been unable to find out why Korzhavin was arrested. No official at Turksib District Prosecutor's Office would identify the Investigator in the case on 3 April or tell Forum 18 why he had been arrested. (END) http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2269
  3. Kazakhstan's President orders harsher Religion Law drafted by mid-August, as fines for exercising freedom of religion or belief continue. 89-year-old Baptist Yegor Prokopenko was again fined for leading his community, while an Atyrau giftshop owner was fined for offering four Korans for sale. At the age of 89 and a half, former Soviet-era Baptist prisoner of conscience Yegor Prokopenko has again been fined for leading a meeting for worship. He is believed to be the oldest victim of Kazakhstan's policy of fining those who exercise the right to freedom of religion or belief without state permission. Two Protestants in the same city were fined for drinking tea in a cafe after a Sunday meeting for worship. A giftshop owner in Atyrau was fined for offering four copies of the Koran for sale without a state licence, which the judge deemed would have "harmful consequences". With Kazakhstan's president ordering harsher restrictions in the Religion Law to be prepared by mid-August, with likely new associated punishments in the Code of Administrative Offences, exercise of the right to freedom of religion or belief seems set to be punished even more widely. Kazakhstan's 2011 Religion Law already violates the country's international human rights obligations. It bans meetings for worship by communities without state approval, meetings for worship in venues that have not been approved, distribution of books about religion and other religious items without state approval or in venues that do not have state approval for religious literature distribution, and discussing religion with others if the individual does not have state approval as a "missionary". These bans are backed up by punishments in the Administrative Code. In addition, 32 individuals are known to have been given criminal convictions since December 2014 for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief. Most of these have been imprisoned. Many have also had their bank accounts frozen. Wide-ranging legal amendments ordered Following violence which began in the north-western city of Aktobe [Aqtobe] on 5 June, President Nursultan Nazarbayev was quick to blame "followers of the non-traditional religious movement of Salafism". He told a meeting of the Security Council in the capital Astana on 10 June that in response legal changes would be made to a range of laws "to ensure national security". President Nazarbayev instructed the government "within a two-month period to draft a package of legislative initiatives in the sphere of countering terrorism and extremism, production, storage and sale of weapons, in the area of regulating migration and religious associations", according to the presidential website. He added that it is "necessary" to include the entire legislative package in the legislative plan for 2016. When the new restrictive version of the Religion Law and amendments to other laws were adopted in 2011, they too had not been in the legislative plan for the year. However, they suddenly reached parliament in September 2011, were adopted that same month and signed into law in October. "To limit as far as we can the possibility to conduct illegal meetings" Also on 10 June, Galym Shoikin, the head of the Culture and Sport Ministry's Religious Affairs Committee told the Expert discussion club in Astana that his Committee is already working on amendments to the 2011 Religion Law. He noted that the Law already determines that many activities in the area of religion are "illegal". "We want here to widen the norms set out in order to limit as far as we can the possibility to conduct illegal meetings, including in flats and other premises," the local media quoted Shoikin as declaring. "We have a mechanism, but it needs to be strengthened from the point of view of widening." Shoikin noted that under the 2011 Religion Law, holding meetings away from state-registered places of worship requires permission from the local Akimat (administration). "At present many, for example Protestant Christian organisations, practice this, they agree this with Akimats and hold such events," he said. "We simply want to tighten the requirements and make them more precise." Shoikin said he was unable to expand on the details, as the proposals need to be discussed with deputies of the Majilis (parliament). He claimed that "we will take into account international legal acts on the freedom of the individual", as well as legal practices in other countries. Shoikin claimed that recruitment of religious radicals "takes place not in mosques but at such illegal meetings. We must study how it is possible to restrict this." He added that this task was handed to his Committee only several days earlier. He gave no deadline for presenting any proposed amendments to the Religion Law. Muslim Board and state officials earlier claimed to Forum 18 that allowing independent mosques to exist "will breed terrorists". But officials have not produced proof for these assertions. Religion Law amendments to be open to public discussion? The amendments to the Religion Law are being prepared by the Legal Department of the Religious Affairs Committee, an official of the Department told Forum 18 from Astana on 13 June. Once the Committee has prepared the initial draft amendments, they will be reviewed by other "relevant structures", including the Interior Ministry, the National Security Committee (KNB) secret police and the Prosecutor's Office, the official added. The official did not say whether or not the Religious Affairs Committee is involved in preparing any associated amendments to the Criminal Code or Administrative Code to increase penalties for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief or to widen the scope of such "crimes" or "offences". The official noted that the amendments being drafted stemmed from a "political decision" and followed President Nazarbayev's instruction. The official refused to identify what proposed changes are likely to be in the amendments. When Forum 18 pointed out that the 2011 Religion Law already violates many of Kazakhstan's international commitments in the area of freedom or religion or belief, freedom of association and freedom of speech, the official declined to comment. The official claimed to Forum 18 that during the consideration phase, the proposed amendments will be opened up to public discussion. However, the official declined to say how long any public discussion will last and whether comments from the public will be taken into account. Administrative Code amendments underway At the beginning of 2016, just a year after it came into force, the Justice Ministry established a working group to propose amendments to the Administrative Code, sources in Astana told Forum 18. Initially the Ministry apparently planned to soften some of the punishments, including those for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief. However, following the violent attacks in Aktobe and the President's 10 June order to tighten laws and punishments, the Justice Ministry review is likely – among other changes - to widen and increase punishments for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief, sources told Forum 18. The Religious Affairs Committee is likely to contribute to any Administrative Code amendments. However, drafting is likely to be in the hands of the Justice Ministry, with consultation from the Interior Ministry, KNB secret police and Prosecutor's Office. 89-year-old fined for leading worship The 89-year-old Prokopenko – who leads a Council of Churches Baptist congregation in Zyryanovsk in East Kazakhstan Region – was again fined. On 22 May local police officer Dulat Baydindoyev led a raid on the home where the church was holding Sunday morning worship. He was accompanied by three men in civilian clothes, one church member who was present told Forum 18 on 13 June. Officers filmed church members at worship and questioned them after the service was over. Later in the day Officer Baydindoyev returned with a record of an offence against Prokopenko under Administrative Code Article 489, Part 9. This punishes "Leadership of the activity of a social or religious organisation not registered under established legal procedure". He fined him 100 Monthly Financial Indicators (MFIs), 212,100 Tenge (5,200 Norwegian Tenge, 550 Euros or 625 US Dollars). He gave Prokopenko a form showing him how to pay. Were Prokopenko in work, this fine would represent two or three months' average wage. However, he has been a pensioner since before Kazakhstan gained independence in 1991. Prokopenko rejected all accusations of wrongdoing and refused to sign any documents, church members told Forum 18. Officer Baydindoyev defended the raid on the church. "We didn't raid," he claimed to Forum 18 from Zyryanovsk on 13 June. "We arrived after the service." He said he had been accompanied by a cameraman from the police, an officer from the Criminal Investigation Department and a Prosecutor's Office official. He insisted the church was wrong to meet because it does not have state registration. "We filmed them after the service because Prokopenko refused to sign the record." Officer Baydindoyev then put the phone down. Article 489, Part 9 is one Article of the Administrative Code that police officers have the right to fine individuals under with no court hearing. Council of Churches Baptists refuse on principle to seek state permission to be able to meet for worship. They are routinely fined for leading or attending such worship. They also have a policy of civil disobedience, refusing to pay such fines. This often leads to short-term prison sentences, confiscation of property and a ban on leaving Kazakhstan. Prokopenko appealed to Zyryanovsk District Prosecutor Konstantin Pichugin. However, on 3 June the Prosecutor's Office rejected his complaint, Prosecutor Talgat Tudubekov told Forum 18 from Zyryanovsk on 13 June. The Regional Prosecutor's Office is now considering a further appeal, he added. Prokopenko also has the right to appeal to court. Prokopenko served a total of six and a half years' imprisonment for his faith during the Soviet period. He served three and a half years of a five-year sentence handed down in 1972, and the full three-year sentence handed down in 1982. He was fined for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief in 2006, 2008 and 2013. Prokopenko was aged 87 and three months when he was last fined two weeks' average wages in February 2014. He was also put on the exit blacklist for refusing to pay his fine. In court he denied any wrongdoing, insisting that members of a religious community may have the right to form a religious association but are under no obligation to do so. The judge dismissed his views and punished him. Meeting in unapproved venues On 23 March, Astana's Jehovah's Witness community observed the Memorial of Christ's death – their most important annual commemoration - at rented premises in a trade centre. Afterwards, local police and Religious Affairs Department officials interrogated community members and began preparing an administrative case against them for not confirming that location for a religious meeting with the Religious Affairs Department. "It is noteworthy that Astana city administration officially seized the community's house of worship just a few months earlier under the pretext of a city utility project," Jehovah's Witnesses complained. "Now the community has no official place to meet together for worship." Fined for drinking tea after worship Two members of New Life Protestant Church in the Caspian port of Atyrau, Bagitzhan Zholdybayev and Aleksandr Revkov, have been fined for drinking tea in a cafe with five other church members after their Sunday meeting for worship on 17 April. After detaining and questioning the seven church members, Religious Affairs Department official Kairulla Kuskaliyev prepared records of an "offence" against the two under Article 490, Part 1, Point 1. This punishes "violation of procedures established in law for conducting rites, ceremonies and meetings" with a fine for individuals of 50 MFIs. In separate hearings at Atyrau's Specialised Administrative Court on 26 May, Judge Zamira Bainazarova fined both Zholdybayev and Revkov, according to the court decisions seen by Forum 18. Given their disability (both are deaf) the Judge reduced the fines by 30 per cent to 74,235 Tenge each and issued a ban on their unspecified activity for three months. Both Zholdybayev and Revkov denied any wrongdoing in court, but Religious Affairs official Kuskaliyev insisted on their guilt. He explained that their rights had been explained to them using a sign language interpreter. Shop owner fined for selling Korans Booksellers are frequently fined for selling religious literature and other materials – such as icons – without licences. In May 2013, four books confiscated from a bookseller in East Kazakhstan Region – including two with prayers to Russian Orthodox saints Serafim of Sarov and Sergius of Radonezh – were ordered destroyed when the bookseller was fined. After a raid by officials of Atyrau Region Religious Affairs Department, owner of an Atyrau giftshop Tatyana Pastukhova was fined for offering for sale four copies of the Koran without the state licence needed before any sale of religious literature or materials is lawful. At her eight-minute trial at Atyrau's Specialised Administrative Court on 25 February, Pastukhova admitted her "guilt". Nevertheless, Judge Bainazarova observed that selling religious literature without a state licence would have "harmful consequences", according to the decision seen by Forum 18. The Judge found Pastukhova guilty under Administrative Code Article 490, Part 1, Point 3. This punishes: "Violating the requirements of the Religion Law for .. import, production, publication and/or distribution of religious literature and other religious materials, and items for religious use". The punishment for individuals is a fine of 50 MFIs. Pastukhova's fine was reduced by 30 per cent for mitigating circumstances (her expression of regret) to 74,235 Tenge and a ban on activity for three months. The Judge ordered that the four Korans should be returned to Pastukhova. Pastukhova did not appeal against the sentence to Atyrau Regional Court. Fined for discussing faith Individuals are frequently fined under Administrative Code Article 490, Part 3 for talking about their faith with others. This punishes: "Carrying out missionary activity without state registration (or re-registration), as well as the use by missionaries of religious literature, information materials with religious content or religious items without a positive assessment from a religious studies expert analysis, and spreading the teachings of a religious group which is not registered in Kazakhstan". The punishment is a fine of 100 MFIs, with deportation if the individual is a foreign citizen. On 25 April, Oral (Uralsk) Specialised Administrative Court in West Kazakhstan Region found Jehovah's Witness Dina Sarsebekova guilty of "illegal" missionary activity and fined her 100 MFIs, 212,100 Tenge. Her appeal was rejected in May. On 6 April, a representative of Semei City administration in East Kazakhstan Region issued a record of an offence of "missionary activity" to two Jehovah's Witnesses. In January 2016, a Jehovah's Witness was convicted of "illegal missionary activity" in North Kazakhstan Region. He was fined 100 MFIs, 212,100 Tenge. (END) Source: http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2188
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