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  1. Transferred by train from Pavlodar labour camp to cancer hospital in Almaty, Jehovah's Witness pensioner Teymur Akhmedov was pardoned and freed on 4 April. Prosecutors say a criminal case against a Protestant pastor will "soon" be closed down. Prosecutors are still investigating a five-year-old criminal case against an atheist. The trial of three Muslims continues in Karaganda. After nearly a year and a quarter in jail, Jehovah's Witness prisoner of conscience, pensioner and cancer-sufferer Teymur Akhmedov was pardoned on 2 April and released from custody on 4 April. He had already been transferred by train from labour camp in the northern city of Pavlodar to a hospital in the southern city of Almaty, where he underwent a further operation. The 61-year-old Akhmedov's release from his five-year prison term came as a result of a pardon from President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Akhmedov always vigorously refuted the charges that he had "incited religious discord" by talking about his faith to young men sent by the National Security Committee (KNB) secret police. Forum 18 was unable to reach the KNB investigator who had launched the criminal case against Akhmedov. He has since been transferred from the city to the national KNB (see below). Forum 18 has been unable to find out if the authorities will lift the three-year post-sentence ban on Akhmedov conducting "ideological/preaching activity" or remove him from the list of "terrorists and extremists" whose bank accounts are frozen (see below). An official of Kyzylorda City Police's Investigation Department told Forum 18 that the criminal case on the same charges of "inciting religious discord" against New Life Protestant Church pastor Serik Bisembayev "will soon be closed down for absence of a crime". The criminal case was opened the day the police raided his New Life Church congregation in February (see below). Prosecutors are still investigating the criminal case on charges of "inciting religious discord or hatred" launched against the atheist blogger and human rights defender Aleksandr Kharlamov back in January 2013 (see below). The trial in the central city of Karaganda of three Muslims accused of membership of the banned Muslim missionary movement Tabligh Jamaat is due to resume on the morning of 6 April. The Prosecutor's Office told Forum 18 that police investigators have not yet handed over criminal cases against three more Muslims arrested with them in October 2017 (see below). Since December 2014, 63 alleged Tabligh Jamaat adherents (all of them Kazakh citizens) are known to have been given criminal convictions. Of these, 49 were given prison terms while 14 were given restricted freedom sentences (see F18News 5 March 2018 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2359). Pardoned, further cancer operation Jehovah's Witness prisoner of conscience, pensioner and cancer-sufferer Teymur Sultan ogly Akhmedov (born 7 May 1956) was serving his sentence in a labour camp in the northern city of Pavlodar. As the authorities refused to heed United Nations (UN) appeals for his "immediate release" (see below), he lodged an appeal for pardon earlier in 2018 while insisting that he was not guilty of any offence. As Akhmedov's state of health worsened, he underwent surgery on 8 February. Doctors removed two tumours, one of which was malignant. On 12 February, doctors diagnosed sigmoid colon cancer. "The initial diagnosis by doctors in Pavlodar indicates that his cancer is transitioning from stage II to stage III, requiring urgent investigation and long-term treatment," Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18 in early March (see 5 March 2018 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2359). In mid-March, the prison authorities decided to transfer Akhmedov to Almaty for further hospital treatment. As the train journey would take about five days the family offered to pay for him to be flown with any necessary guards. However, the prison authorities refused this offer and Akhmedov was transported by train, Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. Once in Almaty, Akhmedov was assigned to Almaty City Investigation Prison LA-155/1 and it was from this prison that he was formally freed, according to the 4 April release certificate signed by Prison Chief Azamat Iztleuov and seen by Forum 18. However, the authorities had already placed Akhmedov in a city cancer hospital. He underwent a further operation on 27 March and is now recuperating, Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. Akhmedov's wife Mafiza travelled down from their home in Astana to be with him in the Almaty hospital. Akhmedov was able to participate in hospital in the commemoration of the Memorial of Christ's Death, which Jehovah's Witnesses observed this year on 31 March, Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. President Nazarbayev signed Decree No. 656 on 2 April, pardoning Akhmedov and "releasing him from serving the rest of his punishment in the form of deprivation of liberty and expunging his criminal record". The Decree has not so far been published on the presidential website or on the database of legal acts, as of the end of the working day in Astana on 5 April. Forum 18 has been unable to find out if Akhmedov's three-year post-sentence ban on conducting "ideological/preaching activity" remains in force. Any bank accounts Akhmedov has remain frozen as his name still appears on the most recent list (issued on 3 April) of the Finance Ministry Financial Monitoring Committee List of individuals "connected with the financing of terrorism or extremism". Forum 18 has been unable to find out if the authorities have provided Akhmedov with "an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law" in line with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Opinion on Akhmedov's case (see below). Forum 18 was unable to reach Medet Duskaziyev, the KNB secret police Investigator who launched the criminal case against Akhmedov. The officer who answered his phone at the Astana City KNB on 5 April told Forum 18 that Duskaziyev has been transferred to a job in the central KNB secret police administration. The officer – who did not give his name – was unable to give Forum 18 a telephone number for him. KNB secret police entrapment, arrest, torture, jailing The KNB secret police arrested Akhmedov and another Jehovah's Witness in Astana in January 2017 for discussing their faith with others. Akhmedov was, as in other cases involving Muslim and Protestant prisoners of conscience, set up for prosecution by the KNB secret police using informers it recruited. These informers invited those prosecuted to meetings the KNB recorded in which they shared their beliefs. Akhmedov was sentenced in May 2017 to a five year jail term with a further three-year ban on conducting "ideological/preaching activity" (see F18News 3 May 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2277). The national cancer centre stated in early 2017 that Akhmedov needed to be hospitalised for an operation, so his jailing broke the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (known as the Mandela Rules). The judge claimed jailing was necessary to defend "a civilised society" (see F18News 2 February 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2252). Prisoner of conscience Akhmedov was also tortured in detention. However, in defiance of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment - and as in other cases involving Muslim prisoners of conscience - no officials have been arrested or tried for torturing prisoners of conscience jailed for exercising freedom of religion and belief (see F18News 7 March 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2262). Akhmedov's lawyers were threatened with criminal trial for "revealing information from a pre-trial investigation". Their "crime" was to send copies of their legal appeal to President Nazarbayev and the Foreign Ministry (see F18News 3 April 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2269). But the criminal cases against the lawyers were dropped after prisoner of conscience Akhmedov was jailed (see F18News 22 September 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2317). Criminal Code Article 174 Akhmedov, a retired bus driver, was convicted under Criminal Code Article 174, Part 2 ("Incitement of social, national, clan, racial, or religious 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 discord"). The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, the UN Human Rights Committee, and Kazakh human rights defenders have strongly criticised Article 174 and have repeatedly called for it to be reworded or abolished (see F18News 3 May 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2277). Five of the 24 people known to have been convicted in 2017 to punish them for exercising freedom of religion or belief were convicted under Criminal Code Article 174. Five were Muslims while two (including Akhmedov) were Jehovah's Witnesses (see F18News 5 March 2018 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2359). UN calls in October 2017 for Akhmedov's "immediate" release On 2 October 2017, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention publicly stated that Kazakhstan should release prisoner of conscience Akhmedov "immediately". The Working Group's Opinion (A/HRC/WGAD/2017/62) found that Kazakhstan contravened both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. "The Working Group considers that, taking into account all the circumstances of the case, the appropriate remedy would be to release Mr. Akhmedov immediately and accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law". On 9 January 2018 the UN Human Rights Committee also called for interim measures "without delay" so that prisoner of conscience Akhmedov could receive adequate medical care. Yet Kazakhstan's Supreme Court and the government still refused to release him (see F18News 12 January 2018 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2345). "Inciting religious discord" charges against Protestant Pastor to be dropped? An official of Kyzylorda City Police's Investigation Department told Forum 18 on 5 April that the criminal investigation against New Life Protestant Church pastor Serik Bisembayev "will soon be closed down for absence of a crime". He was being investigated on charges of "inciting religious discord" under Criminal Code Article 174, Part 2 ("Incitement of social, national, clan, racial, or religious discord"). "No one is planning to imprison him," added the official, who would not give his name. He refused to discuss the case further, insisting that Bisembayev would be informed of the "legal decision" in writing. The official refused to say if the pastor, or any church members, would face prosecution under the Administrative Code. Nor would the official say if the books officers seized from Pastor Bisembayev had been returned. Police opened the criminal case against Pastor Bisembayev on 25 February, the same day officers raided his New Life Church congregation in the southern city of Kyzylorda. Officers of the Regional Police's Department for the Struggle with Extremism as well as the city police halted Sunday worship, filmed those present, and forced them to state why they attend. Teachers from a Special School for children with hearing difficulties questioned adult former students why they were present and insulted their faith (see F18News 26 March 2018 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2364). Five-year criminal investigation continues Prosecutors in the northern town of Ridder in East Kazakhstan Region are still investigating the criminal case launched back in January 2013 against the atheist blogger and human rights defender Aleksandr Milentievich Kharlamov (born 2 July 1950). He is being investigated on charges of "inciting religious discord or hatred" under Article 164 of the old Criminal Code (equivalent to Article 174 of the current Criminal Code) for his writings on religion. Said Aimukhan, Ridder's Prosecutor who is leading the criminal case against Kharlamov, told Forum 18 on 5 April that the case is "being investigated". Asked why it is still being investigated more than five years after it was opened, Aimukhan put the phone down. Subsequent calls went unanswered. Prosecutors launched the case after claiming to have found insults to members of various faiths in his writings, claims he denied. As part of that case he spent from March to September 2013 in pre-trial detention, including a month in a psychiatric hospital (see F18News 7 March 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2262). "They're refusing to close down the criminal case because I'd then have the right to take them to court for exceeding their powers," Kharlamov told Forum 18 from Ridder on 5 April. "Given my age, they're just spinning it out until I die." However, he said he was preparing to lodge a case to court within the month against the prosecutor's failure to bring the case to court or close it down. Kharlamov added that prosecutors have returned all the books seized from him. Although the court-imposed restrictions on his movement remain in force, they are not being applied. "But they could stop me from travelling abroad." Criminal trial underway After nearly six months' pre-trial detention, the criminal trial of three Muslims began under Judge Maulet Zhumagulov at October District Court in the central city of Karaganda on 12 March. Kazbek Asylkhanovich Laubayev (born 30 October 1978), Marat Amantayevich Konyrbayev (born 16 March 1981), and Taskali Nasipkaliyevich Naurzgaliyev (born 3 May 1981) are being tried on charges of membership of the Muslim missionary movement Tabligh Jamaat. Further hearings were held on 19 and 27 March. The trial is due to continue at 11 am on 6 April, according to court records. The three were among six Muslims arrested in a "special operation" in Karaganda in October 2017. The case was prepared by the KNB secret police and the ordinary police (see F18News 12 January 2018 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2345). The other three Muslims detained with them are still being investigated (see below). Laubayev, Konyrbayev and Naurzgaliyev are being tried under Criminal Code Article 405, Part 1. This punishes "organising the activity of a social or religious association or other organisation after a court decision banning their activity or their liquidation in connection with extremism or terrorism they have carried out" with a fine or up to six years' imprisonment. At the initial hearing on 12 March, witnesses were questioned. They insisted the three Muslims did nothing wrong, Yelena Weber of Radio Free Europe's Kazakh Service, who was present in court, noted the same day. The witnesses said all they did was "after Friday namaz [prayers] they gathered in a flat over a cup of tea and spoke about Allah". Yergen Yezhanov of October District Prosecutor's Office, who is leading the case in court, told the hearing that the three men participated in Tabligh Jamaat's activity before an Astana court banned the movement in 2013. They continued to do so knowing the movement had been banned, Yezhanov claimed, spreading the group's "ideology" in Karaganda Region and recruiting new members. Relatives of the three men, who are each married with several young children, rejected the accusations. One of Konyrbayev's sisters told Radio Free Europe that her brother always told them "Pray the namaz and fear Allah". "He acknowledges only that they gathered, drank tea, prayed and spoke about Allah," she insisted. "Before 2013 nothing like this happened," another sister told Radio Free Europe. "Everything was possible: praying the namaz, going to mosque, meeting together, drinking tea. Now the law is that no more than three can meet together." The relatives added that the three men did not have the money to pay for lawyers of their choice. Criminal cases not reached Prosecutor's Office Three other Muslims arrested in Karaganda in October 2017 together with Laubayev, Konyrbayev and Naurzgaliyev are still being investigated on criminal charges. "The three men's cases have not yet reached the Prosecutor's Office," an official of Karaganda's October District Prosecutor's Office told Forum 18 on 5 April. He refused to discuss the cases further. In early November 2017, October District Court ordered the three men to remain at home under restrictions as the criminal investigation against them under Criminal Code Article 405 continued. The court has periodically extended the restrictions (see F18News 12 January 2018 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2345). Forum 18 understands that the three men have been questioned at the trial of Laubayev, Konyrbayev and Naurzgaliyev. (END) http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2366
  2. A court in Kazakhstan has acquitted a woman charged with illegal missionary activity after she showed another person how to download the Bible on a smartphone, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty reported. Dilobarkhon Sultanova was found not guilty by the South Kazakhstan Regional Court, in the city of Shymkent on March 13. Sultanova had been charged in January after she demonstrated to a woman she had met at the New Life Protestant church in December how to download the Bible on her smartphone. The woman later filed a complaint to the local police against Sultanova, accusing her of propagating Christianity illegally. Kazakhstan has a multi-ethnic population of almost 18 million, with a Muslim majority and a large Russian Orthodox minority. Despite the fact that freedom of religion is guaranteed by the constitution, there have been several cases where followers of religions that are considered 'nontraditional' have been given prison sentences after being charged with inciting discord or conducting illegal missionary activities. In January this year, Christian Today reported on how Christians, Muslims and Jehovah's Witnesses have been subject to increasingly punitive restrictions on religious freedom in Kazakhstan, with the European Evangelical Alliance warning that the state is redoubling its crackdown on 'unauthorised' faith, prompting 'extreme concern' among religious locals. In 2017, the Kazakh state reportedly made 279 prosecutions targeting religious groups for crimes such as meeting for worship, sharing or importing religious literature in person or online, and praying in private settings. New amendments to Kazakh law are expected only to expand current restrictions, effectively barring any expression of religion not aligned with officially state-approved religious guidelines, according to Forum 18. This includes, for example, a ban on meeting for religious assembly in private such as for Bible study groups. https://www.christiantoday.com/article/kazakh-woman-found-not-guilty-after-being-charged-over-downloading-bible-on-her-phone/127603.htm
  3. KAZAKHSTAN. Almaty chooses the best doctor of the year a JW! ~ ???? In Almaty, the best doctor of the year was chosen according to the comments of the patients. The organizer was one of the online search services for doctors. Around 500 doctors participated in the competition. The ceremony took place on Monday January 15, 2018 the results of the largest number of positive patient votes, the main prize of "The best doctor 2017" received an endocrinologist Alexei Leonidovich Vakulenko. Among Alexey Vakulenko's patients there are not only adults, but also children over one year of age. Everyone talks about him as an attentive, professional and benevolent doctor. Alexey Vakulenko has been a Jehovah's Witness for more than 17 years. He explains: "I have noticed that many patients not only need medical attention, and human sympathy, the ability to listen and warm friendly support such a quality that is helping me to develop the study of the Bible, and I am glad that the application of biblical principles will help me do my job well and be a useful member of society. " https://www.newssail.kz/novost/v-almaty-vybrali-luchshego-vracha-goda#
  4. Six Sunni Muslims arrested in Karaganda are under criminal investigation for alleged membership of a Muslim missionary movement. Three of them are in pre-trial detention. All known criminal cases against conscientious objectors have been dropped. Six more Sunni Muslims were arrested in a "special operation" in the central city of Karaganda [Qaraghandy] on 30 October. All six are being investigated on criminal charges of participation in the activities of the Muslim missionary movement Tabligh Jamaat, which was banned in Kazakhstan in 2013. A court ordered that three of the accused be held in Investigation Prison. The other three had to sign statements that they would not leave the city. Police, National Security Committee (KNB) secret police, court and prison officials refused to identify the individuals or discuss the cases with Forum 18 (see below). Meanwhile, police investigators have dropped criminal cases against Jehovah's Witness young men for refusing military service on grounds of conscience. Investigators finally recognised the certificates issued by the Jehovah's Witness Administrative Centre in Almaty that the men were religious ministers and thus exempt from conscription (see below). 23 criminal convictions in 2017 so far So far in 2017, 23 individuals are known to have been given criminal convictions to punish the exercise of freedom of religion or belief. Of these, 20 were Sunni Muslims, 2 Jehovah's Witnesses and 1 Baptist. Of the 23 (all of them men), 20 received prison terms and 3 received restricted freedom sentences, where they live at home under restrictions. The most recent known conviction was of Baptist Yuri Bekker. He was given a one-year restricted freedom sentence on 31 October in Akmola Region for refusing to pay earlier fines to punish him for exercising freedom of religion or belief (see F18News 3 November 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2331). Of the 20 convicted Muslims, 15 were accused of membership of the Tabligh Jamaat Muslim missionary group, which was banned by an Astana court in 2013. Adherents often travel around the country encouraging other Muslims to greater piety (see F18News 28 March 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2162). The other five had all lived in Saudi Arabia for either work or study. Karaganda: Six arrests On 30 October, police arrested six Sunni Muslims in Karaganda's October District aged between 22 and 39 accused of membership of the banned missionary group Tabligh Jamaat. As part of its "special operation", police found and confiscated religious literature, "technical equipment", mobile phones and flashcards at their homes, police told the local media. "According to the expert analysis," the police declared, "the materials studied contained elements of recruitment and preparation of people to organise activity of the religious extremist organisation Tabligh Jamaat in the Region." An official of the Regional Police Anti-Extremism Department – who would not give his name – said the arrests had taken place in the city of Karaganda. He insisted to Forum 18 on 14 November that the police, not the National Security Committee (KNB) secret police had conducted the operation. He refused to give any other information and put the phone down. The press spokesperson for the Regional Police refused to give any information on the cases. Following the arrests, police went to court seeking pre-trial measures against the six. Judge Shyngys Ganiolla of Karaganda's October District Court ordered that three be held in Investigation Prison as the criminal case against them is being investigated, the Judge's assistant told Forum 18 from the court on 17 November. He refused to give the names of the three, or to say how long they can be held in pre-trial detention before prosecutors need to come back to court. The other three were ordered to sign statements not to leave their home town. The six Muslims are being investigation under Criminal Code Article 405, Part 2. This punishes "participation in the activity of a social or religious association or other organisation after a court decision banning their activity or their liquidation in connection with extremism or terrorism they have carried out" with a fine or up to two years' imprisonment. The Judge's assistant refused to tell Forum 18 who the Investigator in the case is. The head of the Regional Police's Investigation Department told Forum 18 on 17 November that it is not handling the case. An official of the Regional KNB secret police told Forum 18 the same day that "in the interests of the investigation it cannot give information". Nurlan Bikenov, head of the Regional Religious Affairs Department, said police did not consult his Department about the arrests and criminal cases. "I read about it in the official announcement through the media," he told Forum 18 from Karaganda on 15 November. "I can't say if there will be more arrests – this is a police matter." Asked whether adherents of Tabligh Jamaat had ever committed crimes of violence or terrorism in Karaganda Region, Bikenov responded: "We don't have such information." But he defended the arrests of the six. "If they were arrested there must be a reason." Pre-trial detention The three Muslims ordered held in pre-trial detention are in Karaganda's Investigation Prison (AK-159/1). However, an official of the Special Department of the Prison – who would not give her name - refused to give Forum 18 any information about the prisoners on 17 November, including on whether they are able to pray visibly and have religious literature of their choice. Many prisoners of conscience imprisoned for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief have complained of being unable to pray visibly in prison or have religious literature. Other prisoners too have complained of these restrictions (see F18News 3 May 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2277). The United Nations (UN) Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (known as the Mandela Rules, A/C.3/70/L.3) require governments to respect the freedom of religion or belief and other human rights of prisoners – including those in pre-trial detention. The Investigation Prison address: Karagandinskaya Oblast g. Karaganda ul. Asfaltnaya 16 Uchr. AK-159/1 (SI-16) Kazakhstan Financial blacklisting to follow? If eventually brought to trial and convicted, the six Sunni Muslims under criminal investigation in Karaganda are also likely to be added to the Finance Ministry Financial Monitoring Committee List of individuals "connected with the financing of terrorism or extremism". Almost all known prisoners of conscience convicted on "extremism"-related criminal charges have been added to this List, thus freezing any bank accounts they may have, without any additional due legal process. As individuals are not told when they are added to the List, they normally only find out they have been added when they or relatives attempt to withdraw money from their bank (see F18News 10 June 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2187). Eight Sunni Muslim prisoners of conscience are among those recently added to the financial blacklist: Rollan Arystanbekov, Zhumabai Nurpeyis, Nurlan Ibrayev, Kanat Shaigozhanov, Nuralim Tyupeyev, Ermek Akhmetov, Iliyan Raiymzhan and Abdukhalil Abduzhabbarov. All were sentenced to prison terms between June and August to punish them for exercising freedom of religion or belief (see F18News 29 August 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2311). Conscientious objectors' criminal cases dropped All the six known criminal cases or investigations launched in 2017 against Jehovah's Witness young men for refusing compulsory military service have now been dropped. The six were being investigated under Criminal Code Article 387, Part 1. This punishes "refusing military service" with – for a first offence - a fine of up to 1,000 Monthly Financial Indicators, or corrective labour to the same value, or up to one year of restricted freedom or imprisonment. Military conscription offices had refused to accept the certificates that each of the six had from the Jehovah's Witness Administrative Centre in Almaty confirming that they were religious ministers. This should have ensured their exemption from military service (see F18News 22 September 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2317). Police investigators closed the criminal cases against five of the six "for absence of a crime" (Forum 18 has seen some of the police decisions). That of Abylai Kopzhasarov was closed on 8 May, Tlek Zhumagazinov in Oskemen on 30 July, Stanislav Stompel in Almaty on 31 August, Adilzhan Iskakov in Semei on 3 September, and Dmitry Vedyakin in Oskemen on 19 September. The Military Conscription Office in Tekeli, Almaty Region, does not appear to have sent the case of the sixth young Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector Kaken Dostayev to the police, Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18 on 17 November. In the case of Zhumagazinov in Oskemen, officials of the city's Defence Department were given unspecified disciplinary measures after their conduct in the case was investigated, the Defence Ministry told Radio Free Europe's Kazakh Service for a 23 October article. It said officials of the Department had sent his case to the police "without investigating all the circumstances". No civilian alternative to military service The government has ignored repeated recommendations from the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee that Kazakhstan "review its legislation" to recognise individuals' right to conscientious objection. An official of the government's Human Rights Commissioner's Office in Astana refused to explain to Forum 18 in September why Kazakhstan has failed to introduce an alternative civilian service (see F18News 22 September 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2317). (END) http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2333
  5. A Baptist has been given a criminal conviction for refusal to pay a fine for – as the Constitution allows - handing out religious literature on the street. And the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has called for a prisoner of conscience's "immediate" release. On 31 October a Council of Churches Baptist, Yuri Bekker, was given a criminal conviction for refusal to pay a fine imposed in 2016 for handing out religious literature on the street. He was given a one-year suspended prison sentence, one year's restricted rights, and ordered to pay fines and a fee for a state "expert analysis" of his own Christian books. He also faces the theat of losing his home and of being jailed. Bekker told Forum 18 that he will not pay the fine as he was only exercising his constitutional rights and he did not ask the state to analyse his own books (see below). On 13 October Jehovah's Witnesses filed an appeal to the Supreme Court for the acquittal and release of prisoner of conscience Teymur Akhmedov, a cancer sufferer who was tortured and jailed in May for five years and banned for a further three years from conducting "ideological/preaching activity". The 61-year-old bus driver was accused of "inciting religious hatred" when he shared his beliefs with KNB secret police informers. The United Nations (UN) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has publicly stated that Kazakhstan should "release Mr. Akhmedov immediately and accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law". A Supreme Court official refused to tell Forum 18 if this would happen (see below). First criminal conviction for failure to pay fine On 31 October a Council of Churches Baptist, Yuri Bekker, was given a criminal conviction for refusal to pay fines imposed in 2015 and later for handing out religious literature on the street. Judge Galiya Baktygulova of Zhaksy District Court in the northern Akmola Region imposed a one-year suspended prison sentence on Bekker under Criminal Code Article 430 Part 1. This bans failure to fulfil a court decision over a period of more than six months or interfering with such a decision, with a penalty of imprisonment or restricted rights for up to three years. The decision seen by Forum 18, gives Bekker until the end of 2017 to pay the fine and a fee for state "expert analysis" of the Christian books confiscated from him. He is also under one year's restricted rights, under which he "is obliged not to change his place of permanent residence and work without notifying the appropriate state organ, not to attend public places of entertainment, cafes, bars, and restaurants". Bekker is also "obliged to appear before the state probation organ to be registered within 10 days of the court decision entering into force." Prison? If Bekker does not comply, Judge Baktygulova's decision states that "the remaining part of the term will be replaced with deprivation of liberty (imprisonment) for the same period". Fined for exercising constitutional right Bekker told Forum 18 on 2 November that he did not pay the fines or the fee for state "expert analysis" as "I did not violate the law and I did not ask the state to carry out an ‘expert analysis' of my own Christian books". Yuri Rudenko of the Council of Churches Baptists pointed out to Forum 18 on 2 November that all Bekker did "was to come to the courts and explain to them that he will not pay the fines or the state fee as he only peacefully exercised his faith, which right is guaranteed by the Constitution". "He has to pay it" An official of Zhaksy Court's Chancellery, who refused to give her name, insisted to Forum 18 on 2 November that "Bekker has to pay the fine". Asked what measures the authorities will take if he does not pay the fine, she refused to answer, saying "he has to pay it by the end of this year". When Forum 18 repeated the question she raised her voice and shouted: "What do you want from us? You are not an interested party in the case". She then put the phone down. Rudeno of the Baptists noted that the sentence is the first Criminal Code Article 430 punishment imposed on Baptists for exercising their freedom of religion and belief. In June 2015 a similar case opened under Criminal Code Article 430 against Council of Churches Baptist Nikolai Novikov was dropped, after protests from around the world (see F18News 10 June 2015 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2072). Convicted of distributing religious literature On 10 September 2015, police detained Bekker and a fellow Baptist from Akmola Region, for offering Christian literature to passers-by at the market in Arkalyk in the neighbouring Kostanai Region. In March 2016 both Baptists were fined 74,235 Tenge each, with each also having to pay half the cost of a September 2015 "expert analysis" of confiscated Christian literature – which was taken by police without the legally required confiscation record being provided. The literature was also ordered to be destroyed (see F18News 11 May 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2176). However, the destruction order was subsequently overturned and the liteature ordered to be returned to the Baptists (see F18News 13 May 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2177). Bekker refused to pay the fine and the "expert analysis" fee, but on 10 June 2016 was told by Zhaksy District Court Bailiffs to pay only the fee for the "expert analysis" of his books. Bekker refused to pay the fee, so on 10 November Zhaksy District Court fined him 21,210 Tenge under Administrative Code Article 669 ("Failure to fulfil a court decision"). Bekker refused to pay the fee so on 3 August his rights to his house in the village of Zaporozhye were frozen, and his house could be confiscated if he still does not pay the fee.village for refusing to pay the fines. Bekker was among four local Baptists brought to court in April 2014 for "illegal" religious literature distribution. However, they were acquitted as the Judge ruled that the prosecution had been brought too late (see F18News 17 June 2014 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1970). Prisoner of conscience's Supreme Court appeal pending On 13 October Jehovah's Witnesses filed an appeal to the Supreme Court for the acquittal and release of prisoner of conscience Teymur Akhmedov. Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18 on 3 November that the case is pending in the Supreme Court, which has not appointed a date for the hearing. An Supreme Court official from its Office of Supervisory Appeals, who refused to give her name, told Forum 18 on 3 November that no date had been set for the appeal, and refused to give more details. But she said that the Court has 30 working days from the day of acceptance (which she refused to give) to hear the appeal. Prisoner of conscience Akhmedov was jailed on 2 May for five years and banned for a further three years from conducting "ideological/preaching activity". He denied National Security Committee (KNB) secret police charges of "inciting religious hatred" when he shared his beliefs with KNB informers. The 61-year-old bus driver was held in pre-trial detention from 18 January, where he was tortured with beatings. Officials have repeatedly refused to allow him to be treated in hospital for the cancer he is suffering from, and to read religious literature (see F18News 3 May 2017 http://forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2277). The KNB secret police brought criminal charges against Akhmedov's two lawyers for "revealing information from a pre-trial investigation", when they appealed to President Nursultan Nazarbayev for the case against their client to be halted (see F18 News 3 April 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2269). But the criminal cases against the lawyers were dropped after prisoner of conscience Akhmedov was jailed (see F18 News 22 September 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2317). UN Arbitrary Detention Working Group wants Akhmedov's "immediate" release On 2 October the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention publicly stated that Kazakhstan should release prisoner of conscience Akhmedov "immediately". The Working Group's Opinion (A/HRC/WGAD/2017/62) finds that Kazakhstan has contravened both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. "The Working Group considers that, taking into account all the circumstances of the case, the appropriate remedy would be to release Mr. Akhmedov immediately and accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law" (see http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Detention/Opinions/Session79/A_HRC_WGAD_2017_62_EN.pdf). The Supreme Court official Forum 18 spoke to refused to say if the Court or the government will order Akhmedov's immediate release, compensation and reparation, as the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention requires. More restrictions on exercising freedom of religion and belief may reach Parliament in December. The latest October draft includes restrictions on parents' and childrens' freedom, more sharing belief restrictions, and more censorship. The draft ignores previous UN Human Rights Committee and OSCE legal recommendations (see F18News 10 October 2017 http://forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2324). END)
  6. Police took legal action against the organization for ignoring safety protocols for their building used in worship services. Jehovah's Witnesses in the capital of Almaty are now able to resume their activity after having won an appeal in the local court. The center in the spotlight continues to legally conduct administration and coordinate the... Read more: https://international.la-croix.com/news/besieged-jehovahs-witnesses-resume-work-in-kazakhstan/5656
  7. A court in Almaty, Kazakhstan, has suspended all activity of the Christian Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Kazakhstan for three months. Source
  8. By Felix Corley, Forum 18 Sunni Muslim Nariman Seytzhanov was given five years' jail for "inciting religious hatred" by talking about schools of Islam to Kazakh pilgrims to Saudi Arabia. Satymzhan Azatov's trial on similar charges continues in Astana on 21 June. Five years' suspended sentence handed down in Almaty. The third of four Sunni Muslims who had studied their faith together at Medina Islamic University before returning to Kazakhstan has been sentenced. A court in Kokshetau in Akmola Region sentenced Nariman Seytzhanov on 9 June to five years' imprisonment for allegedly "inciting religious hatred" in talks he gave on Islam to pilgrims to Saudi Arabia. He denied the accusations.A court in Kazakhstan's commercial capital Almaty sentenced another of the former Saudi students, Denis Korzhavin, on 11 May to five years' restricted freedom after he admitted his "guilt". Like the others, he was punished for allegedly "inciting religious hatred" under Criminal Code Article 174 (see below).The trial of the fourth, Satymzhan Azatov, on charges of "inciting religious hatred" is due to resume in the capital Astana on the morning of 21 June (see below).The first of the four to be sentenced was Kuanysh Bashpayev. He was sentenced under Criminal Code Article 174 to four and a half years' imprisonment on 7 April at the end of a closed trial in Pavlodar (see F18News 11 April 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2272). Bashpayev does not appear to have appealed against his sentence.A court in the southern Kyzylorda Region handed Salafi Muslim Kasimkhan Mukhanbetaskar a suspended sentence of two years and ten months for posting Islamic material on social media which prosecutors claimed "incited religious hatred". The court, prosecutors and investigators have refused to tell Forum 18 what the material was, so it is impossible to determine either whether freedom of religion or belief has been violated, or if the accused advocated the destruction of others' human rights (see below).Jehovah's Witness prisoner of conscience and cancer sufferer Teymur Akhmedov has lodged his appeal to Astana City Court against his five-year prison term (see below).A court in Oral (Uralsk) has extended the pre-trial detention of former Saudi-based Imam Abdukhalil Abduzhabbarov as he awaits trial on charges of "inciting religious hatred" under Article 174 (see below).Atheist writer Aleksandr Kharlamov – under investigation in East Kazakhstan Region under Criminal Code Article 174 - has dismissed an "expert analysis" which claimed to find "incitement to religious hatred" in his writings. He has appealed to the Prosecutor for a new analysis (see below).Police in Oral have told a Jehovah's Witnesses that charges against him of "inciting religious hatred" under Criminal Code Article 174 have been dropped. He will be prosecuted under the Administrative Code (see below).Seventh-day Adventist prisoner of conscience Yklas Kabduakasov, imprisoned under Criminal Code Article 174, is due for release at the beginning of October. He has been encouraged in prison in Pavlodar by many letters he has received from fellow-Christians around the world (see below).More prisoners of conscience punished for exercising freedom of religion or belief have had their bank accounts frozen after being added to the financial blacklist (see below).Kokshetau: Seytzhanov's five year prison termAnother Sunni Muslim who studied his faith in Saudi Arabia has been imprisoned, this time in Akmola Region. On 9 June Judge Ilyas Kakim at Kokshetau City Court found 28-year-old Nariman Seytzhanov guilty under Criminal Code Article 174, Part 1 ("Incitement of social, national, clan, racial, or religious hatred or discord"). The Judge handed him a five-year prison term in an ordinary regime labour camp, the term the prosecutor had been demanding. He denied the charges.Seytzhanov was also ordered to pay a fee of 91,693.58 Tenge, according to the verdict seen by Forum 18. This is to cover the cost of "expert analyses", completed on 13 January and 14 March, of his three recorded lectures.Seytzhanov intends to appeal to Akmola Regional Court, a friend told Forum 18 on 15 June.Seytzhanov's closed trial began on 25 April. The verdict was handed down at a closed session and no other parties were allowed into the courtroom to hear it being read, one of Seytzhanov's friends told Radio Free Europe's Kazakh Service the same day.Seytzhanov – who had studied his faith in Saudi Arabia – worked in a travel agency in Astana. He led a group of pilgrims on the umra pilgrimage to Mecca in October 2016. He was arrested by Kyrgyzstan's National Security Committee (NSC) secret police in January 2017. They handed him over to Kazakhstan's National Security Committee (KNB) secret police.Seytzhanov was formally arrested in Kazakhstan on 15 January. He has been held since his arrest in Kokshetau's Interior Ministry Investigation Prison No. 20 (see F18News 18 April 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2273).Prosecutors accused Seytzhanov of inciting religious hatred by "speaking negatively of mashabs [schools of Islamic thought]" on the basis of talks he gave while leading pilgrims on the umra pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in October 2016. Three audio-recordings were placed on the internet. Prosecutors alleged he had recorded them and made them public.However, Seytzhanov's lawyer Bakhyt Suleimenova denied this to Radio Free Europe's Kazakh Service. She said he did not know who had made the recordings or uploaded them to the internet. "Nothing in these talks was against the law," Suleimanova told Radio Free Europe."He simply explained to people how to conduct the haj or umra pilgrimage, and explained in general the fundamentals of the religion so that all we Muslims and all people would be in unity," his friend told Radio Free Europe, "so that there would be no schisms, as in Syria or Ukraine where murders take place, that the people would not be divided." Seytzhanov also called on his listeners to respect the President "so that no one would go against the government" and obey imams.The Judge ordered the hearings closed allegedly to protect the identity of two witnesses who feared for their safety.Suleimanova questioned why the hearings needed to be closed. "According to the Criminal Procedure Code, this is for when there are sexual crimes, such as rapes.""Only Nariman's wife was able to attend the trial," a friend of Seytzhanov told Forum 18 on 15 June. "None of his other friends or relatives were allowed into the court building."Almaty: Korzhavin's five years' restricted freedomAn Almaty-based Sunni Muslim received a suspended sentence after admitting his "mistake". At a one-day trial on 11 May, Judge Nariman Begaliyev of the city's Almaly District Court found Denis Korzhavin guilty under Criminal Code Article 174, Part 1 ("Incitement of social, national, clan, racial, or religious hatred or discord"). The Judge handed him a five-year term of restricted freedom.Korzhavin was punished for lectures in Russian based on the Arabic-language Muslim book "The Three Fundamental Principles". This was banned in Kazakhstan in 2014. Recordings of the lectures were posted on the internet. "Experts" appointed by the prosecution claim to have found incitement to hatred in Korzhavin's lectures.In February 2014, Astana's Saryarka District Court found a book at least partly written by Salafi Muslim Mohammed ibn Abdul-Wahhab "extremist". The book - a Russian translation of the work "Explanation of the Three Fundamental Principles of Islam" – is 543 pages and was published in Cairo in 2008. Mohammed ibn Abdul-Wahhab helped found a precursor to the present-day kingdom of Saudi Arabia (see F18News 10 October 2014 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2005).The comparatively mild sentence followed Korzhavin's admission of "guilt" in court and an agreement before the trial between Police Investigator Aleksei Chapurin and Dauren Sagindykov of the Prosecutor's Office on one side and Korzhavin and his lawyer Ruslan Dzhaniyev on the other.As part of the agreement, Korzhavin pledged to call publicly for peace and unity between religions and to ask people not to circulate copies of his lectures. He recorded such a video-message which was posted on the internet.Under the sentence, Korzhavin will need permission to leave Almaty or change his place of residence and will have to undergo educational work organised by the probation service, Radio Free Europe's Kazakh Service noted on 11 May.Korzhavin, who is now 34 and married with four children, was freed in the courtroom. He had been held since his 18 February arrest in Almaty's Investigation Prison. Both he and his lawyer told Radio Free Europe that he would not be appealing against the sentence.Korzhavin – an ethnic Russian who converted to Islam - had studied his faith at Medina Islamic University in Saudi Arabia. He returned to Kazakhstan in 2011 (see F18News 18 April 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2273).Astana: Azatov's trial continuesThe trial in Astana of another of the former students from Medina Islamic University, 27-year-old Satymzhan Azatov, is due to continue at 11 am on 21 June, according to court records. His trial began under Judge Bolat Pazylov at Astana's Saryarka Court No. 2 on 29 May.At the most recent hearing on 13 June, Azatov renounced his state-appointed lawyer. Instead he chose Baurzhan Azanov and Aiman Umirova to represent him."The trial is open, but it is taking place in a small courtroom that can accommodate only 15 spectators," a friend of Azatov told Forum 18 on 14 June. "Officials allow in some of his friends and relatives, then claim that the courtroom is full." Astana KNB opened a case against Azatov in late December 2016 under Criminal Code Article 174, Part 1 ("Incitement of social, national, clan, racial, or religious hatred or discord"). He had met with other Muslims in Astana without state permission. He was arrested on 4 January 2017 (see F18News 18 April 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2273).Azatov is accused of "inciting religious hatred" in his remarks to guests at a meeting in a cafe in Astana in September 2016 (of which the KNB secret police obtained a recording) and at a subsequent meeting in a home in the city.Azatov and Seytzhanov (who was also present at the cafe) were given administrative fines in November 2016 to punish them for the meeting (see F18News 6 February 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2253).The prosecution has again turned to Roza Akbarova to provide "expert analysis", including during the trial. She claimed that he had spoken negatively of Shia Muslims, stating that they had blown up a mosque.Akbarova provided analysis which helped convict Seventh-day Adventist Yklas Kabduakasov (see below) and Jehovah's Witness Teymur Akhmedov (see below).At an 8 June hearing, Azatov called for Judge Pazylov to be removed from the case, Radio Free Europe's Kazakh Service noted the same day. Azatov described the trial as a "theatre show".Kyzylorda: Muslim sentenced – for what?Because of the secrecy surrounding cases of alleged "incitement to religious hatred" and the closure of many of the trials, many cases remain unknown. Even in cases which are known it can be impossible to establish if an individual has been punished for statements that do not call for harm to the human rights of others.One such is that of Salafi Muslim Kasimkhan Nabiuly Mukhanbetaskar (born 19 April 1992) in the southern Kyzylorda Region. The Police Anti-Extremism Department found in November 2016 that he had distributed audio-recordings on social media that incited religious hatred, according to a 19 April police statement, issued after he was sentenced. It described him as an "adherent of a destructive religious tendency".On 15 March 2017 Judge Kumisbai Kusekeyev of Kyzylorda Court No. 2 found Mukhanbetaskar guilty of violating Criminal Code Article 174, Part 1 ("Incitement of social, national, clan, racial, or religious hatred or discord"). The Judge handed him a suspended sentence of two years and ten months, according to the police statement. He also ordered him to pay fees for "expert analyses" of 233,282 Tenge.Mukhanbetaskar appealed against his sentence. Judge Sabit Abdikanov of Kyzylorda Regional Court heard his appeal on 30 May, Court officials told Forum 18 on 2 June. They said the hearing was open, but that in addition to the Judge only Mukhanbetaskar, his lawyer Toktarbek Myrzambetov and the prosecutor were present.However, Court officials refused to say what decision the Judge handed down. Forum 18 was unable to reach Judge Abdikanov the same day. Forum 18 has also been unable to reach lawyer Myrzambetov.Askhat Mukhtarov of the Police Investigation Department led the case against Mukhanbetaskar. However, colleagues said he had been transferred to Zhalagash District. Officers there told Forum 18 on 2 June that he was ill. Yerkin Sagymbayev, deputy head of the Anti-Extremism Department of the Regional Police refused to answer any of Forum 18's questions on the case, citing the "secrecy of the investigation". Yerlan Zhamalbek of the Prosecutor's Office told Forum 18 that it cannot give information by telephone.Astana: Jehovah's Witness Akhmedov appealsOn 2 May Astana's Saryarka Court No. 2 sentenced Jehovah's Witness prisoner of conscience Teymur Akhmedov to five years' imprisonment on charges of "inciting religious hatred" under Criminal Code Article 174, Part 2.Akhmedov was punished for discussing his faith with seven young men who were KNB secret police informers but claimed to be students. He was also banned from conducting "ideological/preaching activity in the area of religion" for three years after the end of his sentence (see F18News 3 May 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2277).Akhmedov, who is now 61, has been in prison since his 18 January arrest. Asaf Guliyev, arrested with him on the same charges, was sentenced to five years' restricted freedom on 24 February (see F18News 7 March 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2262).Akhmedov's appeal against his sentence reached Astana City Court on 31 May, according to court records. No date has yet been set for a hearing.Oral: Abduzhabbarov's further month in pre-trial detentionIn early June Oral (Uralsk) City Court extended the pre-trial detention of Sunni Muslim Imam Abdukhalil Abduzhabbarov for a further month, until 18 July, Saule Kaisarova, head of the Court chancellery, told Forum 18 from Oral on 14 June.The KNB secret police arrested 41-year-old Imam Abduzhabbarov, extradited from Saudi Arabia at Kazakhstan's request, as he arrived at Almaty Airport on 18 February. He was then transferred to Oral in West Kazakhstan Region (see F18News 21 February 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2259).A KNB secret police Investigator is investigating Abduzhabbarov under Criminal Code Article 174, Part 1 ("Incitement of social, national, clan, racial, or religious hatred or discord") and Criminal Code Article 256, Part 2.Article 256, Part 2 punishes: "Propaganda of terrorism or public calls to commit terrorism" - which includes the production, storage for distribution or distribution of [unspecified in the Article] specified materials - committed by an individual using a state or non-state official position, or with the use of the mass media or other communication networks, or with foreign support, or in a group". The punishment is seven to 12 years' imprisonment with confiscation of property.Ridder: Atheist writer Kharlamov appeals to ProsecutorOn 13 June, atheist writer and blogger Aleksandr Kharlamov wrote to the Prosecutor of East Kazakhstan Region where he lives, Bagban Taimbetov, asking for a new "expert analysis". He complains that "ignorant or unscrupulous experts" of the Regional Judicial Expert Analysis Institute had claimed to find "incitement of religious hatred" in his writings on religion."However, I live in a secular state and am not obliged to have a positive attitude to religions and speak positively about religions and religious people, all the more about religious people committing crimes against humanity and against the truth," he told Prosecutor Taimbetov in his letter seen by Forum 18.Kharlamov complained that the "experts" had "illegally distorted the essence of my publications". He stressed that as a human rights defender he calls on everyone to respect the human rights of "religious people of any religious confession".Police opened the second case against Kharlamov in autumn 2016 under Criminal Code Article 174, Part 1. He has not been arrested but remains under travel restrictions in his home town of Ridder. The first criminal case against him on similar charges, opened in January 2013, has possibly been suspended but never closed (see F18News 7 March 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2262).Oral: Jehovah's Witness investigated but to be punished administrativelyPolice in Oral told a local Jehovah's Witness on 12 April he was being investigated under Criminal Code Article 174, Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. The criminal case was launched after the man gave "an interested person" a copy of the Jehovah's Witness publication "What Does the Bible Really Teach?"Police claimed the book is "extremist" as it has been banned in neighbouring Russia. No Jehovah's Witness publications are known to have been banned as "extremist" in Kazakhstan, although KNB secret police-appointed "experts" claim 16 of 90 Jehovah's Witness publications seized from Akhmedov in Astana at the time of his January arrest (see above) contain "extremist" passages.Police in Oral also questioned four other Jehovah's Witnesses in connection with the criminal case. They ordered an "expert analysis" of "What Does the Bible Really Teach?"Police later dropped the criminal case and the Jehovah's Witness is now being investigated under the Administrative Code.Criminal investigations under Article 174 are known to have been launched against Muslims, Council of Churches Baptists and commercial booksellers which were subsequently dropped. In all the known cases, individuals are then punished under the Administrative Code (see F18News 7 March 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2262).Pavlodar: Kabduakasov in prison encouraged by lettersSeventh-day Adventist prisoner of conscience Yklas Kabduakasov – who failed in his attempts to seek early release – is due to complete his labour-camp sentence in early October, his pastor Andrei Teteryuk said. "Attempts were made to provoke incidents to use against him, but thank God they came to nothing," he told Forum 18 from Astana on 15 June.Kabduakasov was in December 2015 sentenced to two years in a labour camp under Criminal Code Article 174, Part 1. He was punished for discussing his faith with students recruited by the KNB secret police in a KNB-rented flat (see F18News 29 December 2015 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2136).Kabduakasov is serving his two-year prison sentence in a labour camp in the northern city of Pavlodar. "Yklas gains strong moral encouragement from letters from around the world which Christians are sending him every day!" Pastor Teteryuk added. "It is also a powerful testimony for the labour-camp administration."More prisoners of conscience on financial blacklistSeven Sunni Muslim men sentenced in Sairam in South Kazakhstan Region have been added to the Finance Ministry Financial Monitoring Committee List of individuals "connected with the financing of terrorism or extremism".All known prisoners of conscience convicted under Criminal Code Article 174 and Article 405 (involvement in the activity of a banned organisation) have been added to this List, thus freezing any bank accounts they may have, without any additional due legal process. As individuals are not told when they are added to the List, they normally only find out they have been added when they or relatives attempt to withdraw money from their bank (see F18News 10 June 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2187).The seven Muslims added to the financial blacklist on 19 May were Bakhytzhan Baimusayev, Abduvakhab Shakirov, Furkhat Abatayev, Abdivasit Abdirazakov, Murodzhon Abdullayev, Zhenisbek Manbetov and Meirambek Sarymsak.All seven were convicted for alleged membership of the Muslim missionary movement Tabligh Jamaat, which the Kazakh authorities banned in 2013. They were sentenced on 4 April under Criminal Code Article 405. All were given prison terms of between one and four years, plus a ban on unspecified activity once the prison terms are over (see F18News 3 May 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2277).Five Sunni Muslim former prisoners of conscience, all imprisoned under Criminal Code Article 405 to punish them for alleged membership of the Muslim missionary movement Tabligh Jamaat, have been removed from the financial blacklist: Rashid Erimbetov on 18 April; Ruslan Abirov on 28 April; Erbol Sharipov on 15 May; and Serik Seitzhaparov and Adi Bakyt on 2 June.Erimbetov, Abirov and Sharipov were among four Muslim men each sentenced in the southern Zhambyl Region in December 2015 to one year's restricted freedom. Seitzhaparov was sentenced in Akmola Region in February 2016 to two years' restricted freedom. Bakyt was sentenced in April 2015 in Aktobe Region to two years' restricted freedom (see F18News http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2223). (END) http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2286
  9. Con la tecnología de Traductor de Google By Felix Corley, Forum 18 An "anti-extremism" raid on a Kokshetau shop captured a Koran and other Muslim books. The seller was fined for selling religious materials without state permission. She will have to appeal if she wants to regain the books. Icon and book sellers are often fined. In an Anti-Extremism Police raid on a shop in Kokshetau in Kazakhstan's northern Akmola Region, officials seized an Arabic-language Koran and Muslim books in Kazakh and Russian on how to pray the namaz. The woman who had the books on sale was fined in early May, not for extremism-related activity but for selling Muslim literature without the state licence required to sell any religious literature and materials. She has to appeal if she wants the books returned, officials told Forum 18.A case against a Baptist in the nearby town of Stepnogorsk for offering Christian literature to others without state permission was dismissed because it had been lodged too late. Another Baptist is challenging the Judge due to hear his case (see below).In other cases in North Kazakhstan, West Kazakhstan and Kyzylorda Regions, individuals have been fined for offering or selling religious literature on the streets. In Karaganda Region two Jehovah's Witnesses were punished for "missionary activity" for talking to others about their faith with the use of literature. Two young Muslims were punished in Karaganda Region for sending Muslim texts on the Telegram messaging app. In Atyrau a court fined a woman for offering for sale nine Christian icons, while the same court fined a Muslim for teaching his faith with Muslim texts (see below).Officials often claim that those distributing or selling religious literature which has not undergone compulsory state religious censorship or in a place not approved to sell religious literature are guilty of spreading "extremism". Those who distribute non-approved Islamic texts are also often accused of distributing literature "of non-traditional Islam".The government allows only one Muslim organisation to function, the state-backed Muslim Board, which is Hanafi Sunni. It bans all other forms of Islam, although this ban is not prescribed in any law (see Forum 18's Kazakhstan religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1939).Restrictions on who can sell religious literature and where has stopped online retailers from offering religious books, though confusion abounds as to what constitutes "religious literature" (see below).Reached on 22 May, acting head of the Religious Affairs Committee Bakhytzhan Kulekeyev declined to discuss the state-imposed religious censorship – or anything else – with Forum 18.In addition to seizing religious books, icons and other items being sold or distributed without state permission, officials often seek the banning of religious books and webpages as "extremist". State-appointed "experts" ruled that statements by German Lutheran Pastor and Nazi-era political prisoner Martin Niemöller – published 70 years ago – are "extremist". Prosecutors may lodge a banning suit to court (see forthcoming F18News article).Tight state censorshipAll religious literature is under tight state censorship. Only books and other items approved by the Religious Affairs Committee, which is part of the Religion and Civil Society Ministry in the capital Astana, are allowed to be sold, distributed, printed or imported. In addition, only registered religious organisations (on their own premises) and book sellers with a state licence are allowed to sell or distribute religious literature (see Forum 18's Kazakhstan religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1939)."Anti-extremism" legal changes which came into force in January restricted imports of religious literature for "personal use" to one copy of any one book (see F18News 5 January 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2243).Article 490, Part 1, Point 3 of the Administrative Code punishes: "Violating the requirements of the Religion Law for .. import, manufacturing, 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 Monthly Financial Indicators (MFIs).Administrative Code Article 490, Part 3 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.A fine of 50 MFIs represents about a month's average wage for those in work.No religious books at online retailersThe requirement to have a state licence before a commercial book-seller can sell any religious literature means that online book retailers cannot sell religious literature. "Unfortunately we don't currently sell literature with religious themes," one Kazakhstan-based online retailer told Forum 18 from Almaty in late March. "Since the 2011 Religion Law came in, such literature can only be sold in specialised shops or through religious organisations."However, confusion surrounds what constitutes a "religious" book. Some online retailers still sell Leo Tolstoy's "Confession", in which the Russian novelist grappled with the meaning of human existence, or his "The Thoughts of Wise Men", a collection of sayings, including from the Christian Gospels, the Talmud and "Buddhist wisdom".Kokshetau: Selling "banned" religious literatureAnti-extremism police officer Y. Yergaliyev and Regional Religious Affairs Department Chief Specialist Galina Bessmertnaya raided a shop in a shopping centre in Kokshetau in Akmola Region on the afternoon of 7 February. The two had seen that religious literature was on sale.The officials seized all the religious books they could find: 57 copies of 14 different publications, according to the subsequent court decision. These included an Arabic-language Koran and Muslim books in Kazakh and Russian, among them several on how to pray the namaz.Officials sent the books to the Religion and Civil Society Ministry's Religious Affairs Committee in the capital Astana for "expert analysis". The Committee told Akmola Regional Religious Affairs Department that the books were religious.On 31 March Bessmertnaya drew up a record of an offence against the seller of the books, Vera Yafyasova, under Administrative Code Article 490, Part 1 for selling religious materials without the compulsory state approval.A 20 April Police statement on the case claimed that the Muslim literature Yafyasova had on sale was "banned" in Kazakhstan.A case was sent to Kokshetau Specialised Administrative Court. The hearing was repeatedly delayed because religious affairs official Bessmertnaya failed to come to court. On 5 May, Judge Serik Tuleyev found Yafyasova guilty and fined her 10 MFIs, 79,415 Tenge, according to the decision seen by Forum 18. It said the fine had been reduced because she had admitted her guilt and expressed remorse in court and because of her "financial position". The court decision did not say whether or not the seized books were to be returned to her or not. Bessmertnaya defended the seizure of the Muslim books. "All was done in accordance with the law," she told Forum 18 from Kokshetau on 22 May. "Yafyasova can apply to get the books back – there must be an official document before they can be returned." She then put the phone down.The head of the Regional Religious Affairs Department, Bolat Kasenov, insisted to Forum 18 the same day that Yafyasova and others need state permission before they can sell any religious book or item. "We're not violating anyone's rights – just read the law."Kasenov said the books are currently at the court as they constituted evidence in the case.Stepnogorsk: Offering literature on streetsPolice stopped two Baptists, Valery Zhigalov and Ruslan Sadvakasov, on 28 January as they were offering Christian literature to passers-by on the street outside the Siberia shopping centre in the town of Stepnogorsk in Akmola Region. Officers seized all their literature, 136 copies of various books, claiming that religious literature can be distributed only in state-approved locations, Baptists complained to Forum 18. "The Christian library has run continuously for 27 years," Baptists explained to Forum 18 on 14 April.Police took the two men to the police station. They told them that they would send the books for "expert analysis".On 5 April, Bessmertnaya of Akmola Regional Religious Affairs Department drew up records of an offence for each of the two Baptists under Administrative Code Article 490, Part 1, Point 3. The cases were then handed to Stepnogorsk Town Court on 10 April.Zhigalov's case was handed initially to Judge Gulmira Toleubayeva. However, he submitted a motion to have her replaced by another judge.On 17 May, Judge Aisulu Mamilyanova dismissed the case against Sadvakasov, according to the decision seen by Forum 18. Although she found that his unapproved distribution of religious literature had been illegal, she dismissed the case became the case had been submitted to court beyond the legal two-month deadline. The Judge did not say in her decision what should happen to the confiscated books.Bessmertnaya – who was present at Sadvakasov's hearing – would not discuss the cases with Forum 18.Ualikhanov: Offering literature on streetsOn 2 March, Ualikhanov District Court in North Kazakhstan Region punished a local Baptist, Roman Pugachev, for offering religious literature to others without state permission. Judge Serik Temirbekov found him guilty of violating Administrative Code Article 490, Part 1, Point 3 and fined him 50 MFIs, 113,450 Tenge, according to the decision seen by Forum 18. The Judge also banned him from conducting unspecified activity for three monthsAt lunchtime on 18 January, police had stopped him in the village of Novotroitse as he was offering religious literature to passers-by. Police drew up a record of an offence on 27 January. Pugachev told the court that he had indeed been offering Christian literature which had been provided on the basis of donations by church members.Oral: Offering literature on streetsA Baptist from Oral (Uralsk) in West Kazakhstan Region was again punished for exercising freedom of religion or belief, this time for offering religious literature to others. On 6 February Judge Roza Sariyeva of Oral Specialised Administrative Court found Serkali Kumargaliyev of violating Administrative Code Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, according to the decision seen by Forum 18. She fined him 50 MFIs, 106,050 Tenge.Kumargaliyev did not attend the hearing, but in a statement denied that he had been on the streets of the town near the university on the afternoon of 7 December 2016 when police claim he was distributing religious literature without state permission.A student told the court that an "unknown man" had given him a Christian leaflet which his sister had then handed to the police. At the police station the student identified Kumargaliyev from photos of a number of men officers showed him. On 30 December 2016, police then drew up a record of an offence against Kumargaliyev.In his statement Kumargaliyev freely declared that he often does often Christian literature to others in public places, insisting that "praising God is the breath of his life", according to the court decision.However, Baptists insisted to Forum 18 on 11 March that Kumargaliyev made no written statement and had not been informed about the court hearing. They say he learnt of it only on 23 February, when the written court decision reached him.On 31 January Terekti District Court sentenced Kumargaliyev to three days' imprisonment under Administrative Code Article 669, according to the decision seen by Forum 18. He was punished for refusing to pay fines handed down in 2013 and 2014 for exercising freedom of religion or belief.On 5 February Kumargaliyev was again fined – this time by the police - for participating in an unregistered meeting for worship. Six fellow-Baptists were fined with him (see F18News 25 April 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2275).Kyzylorda: Selling literature on streetsKyzylorda Regional Anti-Extremism Police detained a 49-year-old local resident selling religious literature on the streets of Kyzylorda in a location not approved by the local authorities. Police claimed in a 28 April statement that the individual was of a "destructive religious movement", which they did not identify.A record of an offence was prepared and sent to Kyzylorda Specialised Administrative Court. The book-seller was fined 50 MFIs, according to the police statement. Neither the Court nor the Regional Religious Affairs Department would identify the individual.Police pointed out that the city of Kyzylorda has only three designated bookshops where religious literature and other items can legally be sold.Satpayev: Talking to others about faith, offering newspaperTwo Jehovah's Witnesses were punished in Satpayev in Karaganda Region for talking to a woman about their faith on 12 February without personal state registration as "missionaries" and distributing religious literature (a book and a magazine) which had not undergone the compulsory state religious censorship. The woman had called the police.On 17 February, police drew up a record of an offence against Karlygash Zholomanova and Fariza Iskakova under Administrative Code Article 490, Part 3. The cases were then handed to Satpayev Town Court.On 27 February, Judge Zhaksybek Skakov found Zholomanova guilty and fined her 100 MFIs, 226,900 Tenge, according to the decision seen by Forum 18. He ordered that the book and magazine be held in the case files.On 9 March, Judge Kanat Shaikamalov found Iskakova guilty and similarly fined her 100 MFIs, 226,900 Tenge, according to the decision seen by Forum 18. He ordered that a DVD confiscated from her be held in the case files but that a book confiscated from her be returned once the decision entered into force.Judge Nadezhda Kuznetsova of Karaganda Regional Court rejected Zholomanova's appeal on 28 March and Iskakova's appeal on 6 April, according to the decisions seen by Forum 18.The same Judge Skakov had fined a local Pentecostal, Natalya Konopleva, on 2 November 2016. She had offered ten copies of a Christian newspaper "From the Source" (published by her congregation, Agape) on 1 October 2016 in the shop where she worked. The Judge found her guilty of violating Administrative Code Article 490, Part 1 and fined her 50 MFIs, 106,050 Tenge. He also ordered that the eight remaining copies of the newspaper be held in the case file, according to the decision seen by Forum 18.Judge Yerlan Yermekov of Karaganda Regional Court rejected Konopleva's appeal against her fine on 5 December 2016, according to the decision seen by Forum 18.Karaganda: Online Muslim materialsTwo young Muslims in Karaganda, Eldar Zhakayev and Nurlan Dukenbayev, were fined for posting Muslim materials on the Telegram messaging app. On 12 April, Serik Tlekbayev, head of the department of the Regional Religious Affairs Department that liaises with the police, drew up records of an offence against the two for distributing such materials without state permission. He also accused them of distributing materials which had not undergone the state censorship and which were not related to "traditional Islam".On 5 May, Judge Almagul Aikenova of Karaganda Inter-District Specialised Administrative Court found Zhakayev guilty of violating Administrative Code Article 490, Part 1, Point 3. She fined him 50 MFIs, 113,450 Tenge, according to the decision seen by Forum 18. The decision does not identify the material he distributed, but states that it belonged to "non-traditional Islam".On 12 May the same Judge at the same Court found Dukenbayev guilty under Administrative Code Article 490, Part 3. She fined him 70 MFIs, 158,830 Tenge, according to court records.A 16 May statement from the Internal Policy Department of Karaganda Regional Akimat (administration) accused the two men, "who profess non-traditional Islam", of "distributing extremist ideology" and conducting "illegal missionary activity".The telephone of Tlekbayev of the Regional Religious Affairs Department went unanswered or was switched off each time Forum 18 called on 22 May. His colleague Kaisar Akbarov told Forum 18 he was unable to explain by phone what constitutes "traditional Islam" or what law bans Islamic material which the state does not consider to be in line with "traditional Islam".Atyrau: Icons, Arabic-language materialsOn 1 February Judge Zhanat Khabarov of Atyrau's Specialised Administrative Court found Svetlana Tashieva guilty of violating Administrative Code Article 490, Part 1, Point 3 for selling icons without state permission. He fined her 79,415 Tenge, according to the decision seen by Forum 18. She was also banned from commercial activity for three months. The Judge ordered that the icons be returned to her.Meiram Kikimbayev, Chief Specialist of the Regional Religious Affairs Department, discovered Tashieva offering nine Christian icons for sale without state permission at her kiosk in an Atyrau shopping centre on 15 November 2016. He drew up a record of an offence against her on 23 January 2017.Icons were seized from a bookseller in Oral in October 2013 and he was fined for selling them and religious literature without a state licence. An official of the government's then Agency for Religious Affairs in Astana told Forum 18: "We have experts to check icons" (see F18News 8 January 2014 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1913).Meanwhile, on 23 February at the same court, Judge Saniya Kenzhaliyeva punished Shirazidin Temirkululy under Administrative Code Article 490, Part 3 for teaching Islam to children at a charitable centre in Atyrau on 27 December 2016. She fined him 100 MFIs, 226,900 Tenge. She also ordered that Arabic language Muslim books seized from him be returned, according to the decision seen by Forum 18.On 13 March, the Regional Court announced that Atyrau's Specialised Administrative Court fined an individual identified only as "T." 79,415 Tenge under Administrative Code Article 490, Part 1, Point 3 for selling Arabic-language Muslim materials in digital format at a stall in the city's Dina market. The Court also banned the individual from commercial activity for three months. Forum 18 has been unable to establish the identity of the individual punished."People must have state permission to sell icons and religious materials, including DVDs, in kiosks," Kikimbayev of the Regional Religious Affairs Department told Forum 18 from Atyrau on 24 March. (END) http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2281
  10. Astana, May 2, Interfax - Court No. 2 of Astana's Saryarka District has convicted Jehovah's Witnesses preacher Teimur Akhmedov of "inciting ethnic, social, religious, family and racial hatred in collusion with a group of other persons" and has sentenced him to five years in a medium-security penitentiary, the court's press service said. The court also banned Akhmedov from performing any religious ideological and preaching activities for three years, it said. According to the case files, in 2016 Akhmedov and his accomplice, Asaf Guliyev, "organized religious gatherings involving the capital's residents recently recruited into the community at different apartments in the city of Astana." During such meetings, in the presence of their followers, the two men publicly spoke negatively about representatives of Islam, Catholicism and Orthodoxy and said that one religion was superior to another. During a trial in February 2017, Guliyev pleaded guilty to all charges, publicly repented and, given the mitigating circumstances, was given a five-year prison term. http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=13750
  11. The central Asian nation of Kazakhstan is cracking down on religious minorities. 60-year-old Teimur Akhmedov, a Jehovah's Witness, was found guilty of "inciting ethnic, social, religious, family and racial hatred in collusion with a group of other persons." Akhmedov was arrested in January and went on trial on April 6th. http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/world/2017/may/jehovahs-witness-sentenced-to-prison-in-kazakhstan
  12. Jehovah's Witness prisoner of conscience, pensioner and cancer-sufferer Teymur Akhmedov was jailed in Astana on 2 May for five years and banned for a further three years from conducting "ideological/preaching activity". He denied KNB secret police charges of "inciting religious hatred" and will appeal. On 2 May a Judge in Kazakhstan's capital Astana sentenced Jehovah's Witness prisoner of conscience Teymur Akhmedov to five years' imprisonment for discussing his faith with seven young men who were National Security Committee (KNB) secret police informers but claimed to be students. He was also banned from conducting "ideological/preaching activity in the area of religion" for three years after the end of his sentence, a court statement declared. Akhmedov rejected the charge of "inciting religious hatred" under Criminal Code Article 174 and will appeal. The Prosecutor had demanded a six year, eight month prison sentence. Akhmedov, a retired bus driver who marks his 61st birthday on 7 May, has been in pre-trial detention since 18 January, where he was tortured with beatings. Officials have repeatedly refused to allow him to be treated in hospital for the cancer he is suffering from (see below). The KNB secret police has already launched a criminal case against two of Akhmedov's lawyers for allegedly violating the secrecy of the case by appealing on their client's behalf to President Nursultan Nazarbayev (see below). KNB secret police Investigator Medet Duskaziyev – who launched the cases against Akhmedov and two of his lawyers - refused absolutely to discuss anything with Forum 18 on 3 May. He put the phone down as soon as it had introduced itself. Asaf Guliyev, arrested with Akhmedov on the same charges in January, was sentenced to five years' restricted freedom on 24 February in Astana for speaking with Akhmedov about their faith to KNB secret police agents pretending to be students (see F18News 7 March 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2262). Five Sunni Muslims have faced criminal prosecution under the same charges of "inciting religious hatred" as Akhmedov and Guliyev after studying their faith in Saudi Arabia. Kuanysh Bashpayev was sentenced to four and a half years' imprisonment in Pavlodar on 7 April at the end of a closed trial. The closed trial of 27-year-old Nariman Seytzhanov began in Kokshetau in Akmola Region on 25 April. The case of Denis Korzhavin was handed to Almaty's Almaly District Court on 19 April. No trial date has been set. Satimzhan Azatov remains in pre-trial detention in Astana, while Imam Abdukhalil Abduzhabbarov is in pre-trial detention in Oral (Uralsk) (see F18News 18 April 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2273). Seytzhanov's trial is due to resume on the morning of 11 May (see below). Azatov's case might be about to be handed for trial, as Prosecutors do not appear to have applied to extend his pre-trial detention, which expires on 4 May (see below). Prisoners – both in pre-trial detention and in labour camp – are often denied the right to exercise freedom of religion or belief. An official of Astana's Investigation Prison where Akhmedov is being held told Forum 18 bluntly that "religious literature is banned" (see below). Akhmedov: Five year prison term The KNB secret police alleged that between May and October 2016 Akhmedov and Guliyev insulted the faith of non-Jehovah's Witnesses as they spoke about their own faith in Astana to young men who turned out to be KNB agents, who secretly video-recorded their conversations. Both men were arrested in 18 January (see F18News 2 February 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2252). Teymur Sultan ogly Akhmedov (born 7 May 1956) went on trial at Astana's Saryarka District Court No. 2 under Judge Talgat Syrlybayev with a preliminary hearing on 27 March. The full trial began on 6 April. In his final summing up, Prosecutor Baurzhan Kulmaganbetov demanded that Akhmedov be imprisoned for six years and eight months. On 2 May, at the end of the trial, Judge Syrlybayev found Akhmedov guilty of violating Criminal Code Article 174, Part 2. An Astana City Court statement the same day claimed Akhmedov had "in the presence of his followers spoken publicly and negatively in relation to representatives of Islam, Catholicism and Orthodoxy, propagandising the superiority of one religion over another". The Judge sentenced Akhmedov to five years' imprisonment in a general regime labour camp. The Judge also banned him from conducting "ideological/preaching activity in the area of religion" for three years after the end of his sentence, according to the Astana City Court statement. Bans on exercising freedom of religion or belief after an individual has completed a prison term have become a regular extra punishment. Muslim prisoner of conscience Saken Tulbayev he was sentenced in July 2015 to four years eight months' imprisonment. He was also banned from exercising freedom of religion or belief, including praying with others and reading the Koran, until the end of 2022 three years after his release (see F18News 8 July 2015 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2078). Akhmedov is likely to be added to the Finance Ministry Financial Monitoring Committee List of individuals "connected with the financing of terrorism or extremism". All known prisoners of conscience convicted under Article 174 have been added to this List, thus freezing any bank accounts they may have, without any additional due legal process. As individuals are not told when they are added to the List, they normally only find out they have been added when they or relatives attempt to withdraw money from their bank (see F18News 10 June 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2187). Akhmedov: No release for cancer treatment Since Akhmedov's 18 January arrest, officials have repeatedly refused to release him from Investigation Prison to undergo hospital treatment for cancer. 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". Akhmedov's lawyer Kuznetsov told Forum 18 in early April that his client is suffering with two large tumours of the gastro-intestinal tract which are suspected of being cancerous. Akhmedov also told Kuznetsov he was tortured by being beaten in Astana's Investigation Prison No. 12. The duty officer, an official of the Special Department and the Deputy Head of the Investigation Prison separately claimed to Forum 18 in March that no one is beaten there and one accused Akhmedov of lying (see F18News 3 April 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2269). The detention of a cancer sufferer who needs to be hospitalised violates the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (known as the Mandela Rules, A/C.3/70/L.3) (see F18News 2 February 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2252). The head of Astana's Public Observers Commission, Ruslan Ozdoyev, visited Akhmedov in prison in late February. He told Forum 18 on 3 May that he had recommended that Akhmedov be immediately sent to hospital for full medical treatment. "I was angered – how can a person be put in pre-trial detention if they already have a condition needing full treatment?" An official of the Special Department of Astana's Investigation Prison No. 12, where Akhmedov is being held, refused to discuss his medical condition with Forum 18 on 3 May. Akhmedov: Proof "ignored" The seven young men who in 2016 invited Akhmedov and Guliyev to meetings at a rented flat, as well as at the two Jehovah's Witnesses' homes, claimed in court to be students of Astana's Eurasian University. They secretly filmed the meetings and passed the 17 discs of recordings to the KNB secret police. However, at the hearing on 13 April, at which the "chief witness" was questioned, everyone except for the Prosecutor and Akhmedov's lawyers were excluded from hearing the testimony. Even Akhmedov was excluded, Radio Free Europe's Kazakh Service noted. The prosecution claimed the "chief witness" feared for his safety. The defence said it was he who had arranged the invitation to Akhmedov to speak to the young men. Fellow Jehovah's Witness Yevgeny Plachenta told Radio Free Europe's Kazakh Service in the court room after the verdict was handed down that Jehovah's Witnesses were "angry and shocked" by it. "Proof put forward by the defence were all ignored, while the Prosecutor and court simply had the aim of convicting him," he complained. "These were simple religious conversations. He didn't do anything, didn't hit anyone, didn't incite anyone to commit violence." Criminal case against Akhmedov's lawyers On 16 March KNB secret police Major Duskaziyev opened a criminal case against two of Akhmedov's lawyers, Natalya Kononenko and Vitaly Kuznetsov (who is from Russia). He is seeking to punish them for appealing about their client's case to President Nursultan Nazarbayev and other state agencies. The two lawyers are being investigated 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 (see F18News 3 April 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2269). KNB Investigator Duskaziyev is also accusing Kuznetsov of putting pressure on Guliyev, who testified in Akhmedov's case. Kuznetsov and Akhmedov's son Parviz met Guliyev to discuss the case. Guliyev later wrote a complaint to Investigator Duskaziyev against Kuznetsov. Police have already summoned the two lawyers, Kononenko and Kuznetsov for questioning. The lawyers regard the criminal case against them as further pressure on Akhmedov. On 3 May Forum 18 was unable to reach police Investigator Ersain (last name unknown), who is investigating the case. Prisoners denied right to pray, have religious literature Many prisoners of conscience imprisoned for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief have complained of being unable to pray visibly in prison or have religious literature. Other prisoners too have complained of these restrictions. The UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (known as the Mandela Rules) require governments to respect the freedom of religion or belief and other human rights of prisoners – including those in pre-trial detention. Prison officials at Oral Investigation Prison refused to accept a copy of the Koran for pre-trial prisoner of conscience Imam Abduzhabbarov. The administration of Prison camp KA-168/2 in Aktobe refuses to allow Sunni Muslim prisoner of conscience Khalambakhi Khalym to pray visibly. He is allowed to read the Koran only once a week, when prisoners have a lesson on the Koran from an imam of the state-backed Muslim Board, the only Muslim community the government allows to function in the country (see F18News 18 April 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2273). Political prisoner Amin Eleusinov, on trial in Astana for his trade union activities, has – like Akhmedov – been held in Astana's Investigation Prison No. 12. He has been denied the right to pray the namaz in prison, his daughter Milana Eleusinova told Svetlana Glushkova of Radio Free Europe's Kazakh Service on 26 April. Family members were also not allowed to hand in religious literature for him or a pair of ordinary galoshes, because the prison authorities regarded these as "religious" footwear. The Special Department official at Astana's Investigation Prison No. 12, who did not give her name, told Forum 18 bluntly on 3 May: "Religious literature is banned." She refused to explain why or discuss any other restrictions on detainees' rights to freedom of religion or belief. Seytzhanov: Trial continues In Akmola Region, the closed trial of Muslim prisoner of conscience Nariman Kabdyrakhmanovich Seytzhanov (born 2 May 1989) under Judge Ilyas Kakim continues at Kokshetau City Court. He is on trial under Criminal Code Article 174, Part 1 ("Incitement of social, national, clan, racial, or religious hatred or discord"). A further hearing was held today (3 May), with the next due at 10.00 am on 11 May, according to court records. Judge Kakim was not available each time Forum 18 called on 3 May. It was therefore unable to find out why he has declared the trial closed. Seytzhanov – who had studied his faith in Saudi Arabia – was arrested on 15 January. He has been held since his arrest in Kokshetau's Interior Ministry Investigation Prison No. 20 (see F18News 18 April 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2273). Azatov: Trial imminent? In Astana, the trial of Muslim prisoner of conscience Satimzhan Bagytzhanuli Azatov (born 17 September 1989) might be imminent. The latest approval to hold him in pre-trial detention – approved by Astana's Saryarka Court No. 2 - expires on 4 May. As of the afternoon of 3 May, Prosecutors had submitted no suit to court to have the pre-trial detention extended. Nor had they submitted the case to court for trial, Astana City Court told Forum 18. Azatov remains in the city's KNB secret police Investigation Prison. Astana KNB opened a criminal case against him in late December 2016 under Article 174, Part 1 ("Incitement of social, national, clan, racial, or religious hatred or discord"). He had met with other Muslims in Astana without state permission. Arrested on 4 January 2017, he remains under investigation (see F18News 6 February 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2253). KNB secret police investigator Senior Lieutenant Nurlan Belesov initiated and investigated the case against Azatov. His telephones went unanswered each time Forum 18 called on 3 May. Broadly-framed Criminal Code Article 174 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". Article 174, Part 2, which Akhmedov and Guliyev were sentenced under, 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". All the cases have either been brought by or have the close involvement of the KNB secret police. Secrecy surrounds many of these cases. Lawyers are forced not to reveal information on the cases, hearings are often closed to observers, and prosecution and court officials often refuse to answer questions (see F18News 7 March 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2262). The then United Nations (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). (END) http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2277
  13. Teimur Akhmedov (left), in the defendant's cage, and his lawyers in an Astana courtroom on March 27. ASTANA -- The trial of a Jehovah's Witness charged with inciting interethnic enmity has begun in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana. The court on April 6 began hearing the case of Teimur Akhmedov, 60, who was arrested in January for what the Committee for National Security (KNB) described as propagating ideas that "disrupt interreligious and interethnic concord" in the country. The U.S. Embassy in Astana has sent a representative to monitor the case. Likewise, Diana Okremova, the director of the local Media Law Center NGO, attended, as well as relatives of the defendant and local Jehovah's Witnesses. An RFE/RL correspondent was the only journalist present at the trial, and the judge allowed her to make written notes. Akhmedov, who is undergoing cancer treatment, pleaded not guilty at a preliminary hearing on March 27. If convicted, Akhmedov faces up to 10 years in prison. http://www.rferl.org/a/kazakhstan-jehovahs-witness-trial-/28414799.html
  14. Jehovah's Witness Asaf Guliyev was given five years' restricted freedom on 24 February. Fellow Jehovah's Witness Teymur Akhmedov, a cancer sufferer, is in pre-trial detention and states he was tortured. Guliyev's conviction is one of an increasing number of Criminal Code Article 174 cases. Of two Jehovah's Witnesses arrested in January in Kazakhstan's capital Astana for "inciting religious hatred or discord" for talking to National Security Committee (KNB) secret police agents about their faith, one has already been punished. Asaf Guliyev was given a five-year restricted freedom sentence on 24 February. Still in pre-trial detention is 60-year-old fellow Jehovah's Witness Teymur Akhmedov, who suffers from cancer and who told his lawyer he was tortured by being beaten in prison. He is also denied hospitalisation, violating the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (known as the Mandela Rules). Akhmedov was also given tablets which made him feel much worse, but it is unclear if this was deliberately intended (see below). Guliyev's conviction brings to five the number of individuals known to have been convicted since the beginning of 2015 under the broadly-framed Criminal Code Article 174 for exercising freedom of religion or belief. The closed trial of another person is already underway in Pavlodar, with five further cases under investigation. The number of prosecutions appears to be growing (see below and full list at base of article). Secrecy surrounds many of these prosecutions. Lawyers are forced not to reveal information on the cases, hearings are often closed to observers, and prosecution and court officials often refuse to answer questions (see below). All the cases have either been brought by or have the close involvement of the KNB secret police. Criminal Code Article 174 Criminal Code Article 174 bans: "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 1 bans these actions committed by individuals. If convicted, they face two to seven years imprisonment, or two to seven years restricted freedom. Typically, during sentences of restricted freedom individuals live at home, but are not able to leave their town or city without seeking permission. They are often also banned from visiting restaurants, cafes or places of public entertainment. Part 2 bans 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". Human rights defenders and opposition political activists are also frequent victims of Article 174 (see eg. http://www.nhc.no/no/nyheter/NHC+condemns+harsh+sentence+given+to+peaceful+activists.b7C_wlDG1O.ips). All known prisoners of conscience convicted under Criminal Code Article 174 have been added to the Finance Ministry Financial Monitoring Committee List of individuals "connected with the financing of terrorism or extremism", thus freezing any bank accounts they may have, without any additional due legal process. As individuals are not told when they are added to the List, they normally only find out they have been added when they or relatives attempt to withdraw money from their account (see F18News 10 June 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2187). The United Nations (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). Prosecutions increasing The number of prosecutions under Criminal Code Article 174 to punish individuals for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief appears to be increasing. Since the new Criminal Code came into force on 1 January 2015, Article 174 criminal cases are known to have been launched or to have been underway against 19 individuals in 20 cases (see full list below, compiled from court records and other information). Of these 20 known cases: five have ended in convictions (3 Muslims, 1 Jehovah's Witness, 1 Seventh-day Adventist); one trial is currently underway (Muslim); and five cases are still being investigated (2 Muslim, 1 Jehovah's Witness, while atheist Aleksandr Kharlamov is facing two investigations – see list below). In nine known cases, Article 174 cases were launched but were then closed down, with the individuals instead fined under the Administrative Code. Article 174 replaced the identically worded Article 164 of the old Criminal Code (see F18News 9 July 2014 http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1976). Kharlamov, as well as other individuals, were prosecuted under the old Article 164. He still may be prosecuted under the Article 164 investigation (see F18News 17 February 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2258). But overall, the number of pre-January 2015 Article 164 freedom of religion or belief prosecutions was lower. Secrecy, closed hearings, lawyers banned from speaking The authorities appear determined to keep publicity of the Article 174 cases to a minimum. Investigators and courts have often refused to give Forum 18 any information about the cases, even simple factual information. Lawyers in at least some of the 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. When cases come to court, at least some are held in closed hearings, as is happening in Pavlodar in the case of the Muslim Kuanysh Bashpayev (see below). Human rights defenders and observers have been denied entry to hearings. Bashpayev on trial The criminal case in the north-eastern city of Pavlodar against Kuanysh Bashpayev, a Muslim, was handed to Pavlodar City Court on 2 February, the day before his 30th birthday. It was assigned to Court Chair Judge Kayirbek Yelemesov. The trial under Article 174, Part 1 ("Incitement of social, national, clan, racial, or religious hatred or discord") began with an initial hearing on 14 February. The first full hearing was held on 6 March and the trial is due to resume on the afternoon of 13 March, according to court records. The KNB secret police arrested Bashpayev in Pavlodar on 13 October 2016 after he criticised the state-controlled Muslim Board. Colonel Bekezhan Kalkomanov of Pavlodar KNB claimed to Forum 18 in January that Bashpayev had "insulted the religious feelings of Kazakhstan's traditional Muslims". Bashpayev allegedly said "it is not right for Kazakh Muslims to visit graves and pray for their deceased relatives, which he thinks is idolatry". He "also spoke against the official representatives of Islam in Kazakhstan, the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Kazakhstan [the Muslim Board], by which he tried to sow discord among the Muslims", Colonel Kalkomanov added (see F18News 6 February 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2253). "The case against Bashpayev is completely fabricated," one individual familiar with the case told Forum 18 on 7 March 2017. "It is entirely unfounded. The witnesses give confusing testimony and don't seem to know what to say." Bashpayev's closed trial Judge Yelemesov closed Bashpayev's trial to observers and human rights defenders. Several sources told Forum 18 this was a response to a request by the alleged "victim" of Bashpayev's activity, the prominent Almaty Muslim Board imam Ersin Amire. Forum 18 made repeated attempts to reach Judge Yelemesov on 6 and 7 March to find out why he had declared the trial closed. However, the telephone went unanswered each time. The acting head of the Pavlodar branch of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, Ruslan Issenov, had been intending to observe Bashpayev's trial. "The Judge read my appeal to be allowed into the trial and rejected it," Issenov told Forum 18 from Pavlodar on 7 March. "I asked for a copy of the ruling declaring the trial closed, but he replied that a ruling is an internal document and cannot be handed out." Guliyev sentenced The KNB secret police arrested two Jehovah's Witnesses, the 43-year-old Asaf Guliyev and Teymur Akhmedov, on 18 January after launching a criminal case against them under Article 174, Part 2 ("Incitement of social, national, clan, racial, or religious hatred or discord"). The KNB allege that between May and October 2016 the two men insulted the faith of non-Jehovah's Witnesses as they spoke about their own faith to young men who turned out to be KNB agents, who secretly video-record their conversations (see F18News 2 February 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2252). The KNB told Radio Free Europe's Kazakh Service on 13 February that in searches at the two men's homes and at the religious community's temporary address, officers then confiscated copies of 18 different books. The books were "earlier not recommended for import into or distribution in Kazakhstan on the basis of a religious-studies expert conclusion by the Religious Affairs Committee", it added. KNB investigators separated the case against the two men, Guliyev and Akhmedov, apparently in February. Prosecutors sent the case against Guliyev to Astana's Saryarka Court No. 2 on 16 February, according to court records. On 24 February, Judge Bolat Pazylov found him guilty under Criminal Code Article 174, Part 2. The Judge handed down a sentence of five years' restricted freedom. In deciding not to imprison Guliyev, the Judge took into account his "full recognition of his guilt and pure-hearted repentance", newtimes.kz noted on 28 February. Guliyev was defended in court by a government lawyer, Forum 18 learned. Cancer sufferer Akhmedov awaiting trial, tortured The KNB secret police in Astana is continuing to investigate fellow Jehovah's Witness Akhmedov under Article 174, Part 2 ("Incitement of social, national, clan, racial, or religious hatred or discord"). He remains in Astana's Investigation Prison No. 12. Astana's Saryarka Court No. 2 told Forum 18 no case against Akhmedov has yet reached the court. Akhmedov told his lawyer Vitaly Kuznetsov that following his 18 January arrest he was tortured by being beaten in the Investigation Prison, as Investigators tried to force him to admit his "guilt", the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law noted on 3 March. However, Akhmedov continues to insist he is innocent of any wrongdoing, it added. The head of Astana's Public Observers Commission, Ruslan Odoyev, visited Akhmedov in prison in late February. Odoyev expressed serious concern about whether Akhmedov would survive his imprisonment, in view of his cancer and the poor and overcrowded prison conditions. (The Public Observers Commission is a body set up by the state to inspect prisons, and consists of civil society activists.) Akhmedov "barely spoke and, when he did speak about his condition, tears began to flow", Odoyev told Svetlana Glushkova of Radio Free Europe's Kazakh Service on 28 February. Akhmedov told Odoyev of his anaemia and cancer. He complained of tablets he was given which he said "made him feel even worse", Odoyev noted. It is unclear if this was deliberately intended. "He can hardly walk." Odoyev said the question had been raised with prosecutors that in such conditions an individual should be transferred to house arrest or some other form of restriction. Akhmedov denied hospitalisation On 20 January Akhmedov was ordered to be held in two months pre-trial detention, even though a report from the National Scientific Center 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 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). Article 14, Part 7 of the Criminal Procedural Code stipulates that detention of criminal suspects "must occur in conditions excluding a threat to their life and health". Akhmedov "lying because no one is beaten here" At Astana's Investigation Prison No. 12 where Akhmedov is being held, the duty officer, an official of the Special Department and the Deputy Head of the Investigation Prison separately claimed to Forum 18 on 7 March that no one is beaten there. The Head of the Prison, Murat Uralbayev, was not present when Forum 18 called. "People can lie," the Special Department official told Forum 18. Akhmedov "is lying because no one is beaten here". The three Investigation Prison officials – none of whom would give their names - also insisted that Akhmedov is being given all necessary medical treatment in the Prison. "If he was ill he wouldn't be here," the duty officer told Forum 18. "Of course he is not dying," the Special Department official said. "If it is needed he would be taken at once to the city hospital." The Deputy Head – who repeatedly refused to give his name – told Forum 18 that prison warders had once taken Akhmedov to the city hospital, where he was examined by a doctor. The Deputy Head added that Akhmedov's son regularly brings prescriptions. The Deputy Head insisted that "of course Akhmedov can pray" in prison. Asked if he can have religious literature of his choice, the Deputy Head responded: "We have a prison library he can use, which has a wide-range of religious literature, including the Koran and the Bible." He then declined to discuss anything further. Muslim prisoners of conscience have stated that their human rights are violated in prison, including by being banned from reading the Koran and other religious books (see eg. F18News 9 March 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2156). Azatov awaiting trial Also in Astana, 27-year-old Muslim prisoner of conscience Satimzhan Azatov remains in the city's KNB Investigation Prison. Arrested in early January, he is under investigation under Article 174, Part 1 ("Incitement of social, national, clan, racial, or religious hatred or discord"). He had met with other Muslims in Astana without state permission (see F18News 6 February 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2253). Astana's Saryarka Court No. 2 first put Azatov in two-months' pre-trial detention on 6 January. On 27 February, Judge Elizaveta Atchibayeva at the same Court extended this pre-trial detention for a further two months, Court officials told Forum 18. Abduzhabbarov awaiting trial The KNB secret police arrested 41-year-old Imam Abdukhalil Abduzhabbarov, extradited from Saudi Arabia at Kazakhstan's request, as he arrived at Almaty Airport on 18 February. He was then transferred to Oral in West Kazakhstan Region (see F18News 21 February 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2259). KNB secret police Investigator Daniyar Ashim is investigating Abduzhabbarov under Criminal Code Article 174, Part 1 ("Incitement of social, national, clan, racial, or religious hatred or discord") and Criminal Code Article 256, Part 2. Article 256, Part 2 bans: "Propaganda of terrorism or public calls to commit terrorism" - which includes the production, storage for distribution or distribution of [unspecified in the Article] specified materials - committed by an individual using a state or non-state official position, or with the use of the mass media or other communication networks, or with foreign support, or in a group". The punishment is seven to 12 years' imprisonment with confiscation of property. On 22 February Judge Slukhanym Kadraliyeva of Oral City Court acceded to the request of KNB secret police Investigator Ashim to have Abduzhabbarov held in two months' pre-trial detention, Saule Kaisarova, head of the Court chancellery, told Forum 18 from Oral on 7 March. Abduzhabbarov was brought to court under convoy and was present for the hearing, she added. She said she had not seen him and was unable to comment on his condition. Given that such court orders must be adopted within 72 hours of an individual's arrest and given that Abduzhabbarov was arrested on the evening of 18 February, Forum 18 was unable to establish why no court decision had been adopted by the evening of 21 February. Kaisarova, however, insisted that no violation of the deadline for gaining court approval for Abduzhabbarov's arrest had occurred. "The court last year adopted a decision in absentia to hold him in pre-trial detention," she told Forum 18. She did not give any further details. What did others convicted do? Official secrecy surrounding Criminal Code Article 174 ("Incitement of social, national, clan, racial, or religious hatred or discord") cases often makes it impossible to determine either whether freedom of religion or belief has been violated, or if the accused advocated the destruction of others' human rights. For example, on 31 May 2016, in a case initiated by the KNB secret police, Judge Esen Ustelbayev of Almaty Region's Zhambyl District Court found 47-year-old ethnic Uyghur Muslim Farida Kolesnyuk guilty under Article 174, Part 1. As she admitted her guilt, he sentenced her to three years' restricted freedom, according to court records. She lives at home and can attend mosque, but must be home each night and cannot leave her town without permission. An official of the court familiar with the verdict claimed to Forum 18 on 6 March 2017 that Kolesnyuk had gathered a group of fellow Muslims and expounded her ideas about Islam. Among the material she allegedly used were recordings of sermons by Muslim preachers, including the Russian convert Said Buryatsky, who fought with the North Caucasian insurgency. It is unclear whether Kolesnyuk herself advocated the destruction of other people's human rights or not. Criminal Code Article 174 prosecutions for freedom of religion or belief The people listed below (with the most recent at the top) are all those known to have faced charges under Criminal Code Article 174 to punish them for exercising freedom of religion or belief. Article 174 ("Incitement of social, national, clan, racial, or religious hatred or discord") of the current Criminal Code came into force at the beginning of 2015, and replaced the identically-worded Article 164 of the old Criminal Code. More information on all the cases listed below is in previous Forum 18 articles. - Under investigation on one Article 174 charge 1.) Abdukhalil Abdukhamidovich Abduzhabbarov; born 6 April 1975; Muslim; arrested Almaty 18 February 2017; Article 174, Part 1, Article 256, Part 2; Oral Investigation Prison. 2.) Teymur Sultan ogly Akhmedov; born 7 May 1956; Jehovah's Witness; arrested Astana 18 January 2017; Article 174, Part 2; Astana Interior Ministry Investigation Prison. 3.) Satimzhan Bagytzhanuli Azatov; born 17 September 1989; Muslim; arrested Astana early January 2017; Article 174, Part 1; Astana KNB Investigation Prison. - Under investigation on two Article 174 charges 4.) Aleksandr Milentievich Kharlamov; born 2 July 1950; atheist. First case opened January 2013 (possibly suspended but never closed) under old Article 164, Part 1 (equivalent to new Article 174, Part 1); under travel restrictions in Ridder. Second case opened autumn 2016; Article 174, Part 1; under travel restrictions in Ridder. - On trial 5.) Kuanysh Ablayevich Bashpayev; born 3 February 1987; Muslim; arrested Pavlodar 13 October 2016; Article 174, Part 1; trial began 14 February 2017 Pavlodar City Court No. 2; Pavlodar City Police Investigation Prison. - Convicted 6.) Asaf Gadzhiaga ogly Guliyev; born 4 October 1973; Jehovah's Witness; Article 174, Part 2; sentenced 24 February 2017 Astana's Saryarka Court No. 2; five years' restricted freedom. 7.) Rustam Imenzhanovich Musayev; born 17 April 1985; Muslim; Article 174, Part 1; sentenced 1 June 2016 Karasai District Court; two years' imprisonment. 8.) Khalambakhi Khalym; born 12 August 1984; Muslim; sentenced 18 February 2016 Astana's Saryarka District Court No. 2; Article 405, Part 2, Article 174, Part 1; 2 and a half years' imprisonment. 9.) Yklas Kairullinovich Kabduakasov; born 19 February 1961; Seventh-day Adventist; Article 174, Part 1 (though initial investigation under Article 174, Part 2); sentenced 28 December 2015 Astana City Court; two years' imprisonment. 10.) Saken Peisenovich Tulbayev; born 16 June 1969; Muslim; sentenced 2 July 2015 Almaty's Bostandyk Court No. 2; Article 174, Part 1 and Article 405, Part 2; 4 years 8 months' imprisonment and banned from exercising freedom of religion or belief until the end of 2022, three years after his release. - Investigated but charges dropped 11.) Erlan Amanzholovich Aubakirov; born 22 March 1981; Muslim; Article 174, Part 1; case closed 31 May 2016, fined under Administrative Code. 12.) Alisher Erkinbayevich Abduraimov; born 20 July 1971; Muslim; Article 174, Part 1; case closed 15 December 2015, fined under Administrative Code. 13.) Gennadi Sergeyevich Zhirov; born 14 December 1953; Council of Churches Baptist; Article 174, Part 1; case closed 10 November 2015, fined under Administrative Code. 14.) Yuri Ivanovich Bekker; born 18 June 1964; Council of Churches Baptist; Article 174, Part 1; case closed 10 November 2015, fined under Administrative Code. 15.) David Yakovlevich Leven; born 4 November 1969; Council of Churches Baptist; Article 174, Part 1; case closed 10 November 2015, fined under Administrative Code. 16.) Aleksandr Gennadievich Kulbeda; born 20 August 1972; Council of Churches Baptist; Article 174, Part 1; case closed 24 August 2015, fined under Administrative Code. 17.) Vitali Nikolayevich Pan; born 5 May 1961; Council of Churches Baptist; Article 174, Part 1; case closed 24 August 2015, fined under Administrative Code. 18.) Roza Sovetovna Sarsembayeva; born 21 September 1964; book seller; Article 174, Part 1; case closed 28 July 2015, fined under Administrative Code. 19.) Nargiz Zhaksylykovna Bekkhozhayeva; born 8 June 1959; book seller; Article 174, Part 1; case closed 26 March 2015, fined under Administrative Code. (END) http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2262
  15. Kazakhstan has detained Kuanysh Bashpayev for criticising the state-controlled Muslim Board, and Satimzhan Azatov for meeting Muslims without state permission. Both face criminal charges of "inciting religious hatred or discord", as does atheist Aleksandr Kharlamov facing a possible new trial. Bashpayev's trial opens 14 February. Kazakhstan's National Security Committee (KNB) secret police has arrested two Muslims for exercising freedom of religion and belief without state permission. Kuanysh Bashpayev (30-years-old) criticised the state-controlled Muslim Board and was arrested in Pavlodar in October 2016. Satimzhan Azatov (27-years-old) met with other Muslims without state permission in the capital Astana, and was arrested in early January 2017. The KNB secret police has also arrested some of Bashpayev's former classmates from Medina University in Saudi Arabia, though their names are unknown, Muslims in Kazakhstan told Forum 18 on 31 January. Bashpayev has a Master's degree in Islamic theology from Medina. Bashpayev's trial is due to begin at 10 am on Tuesday 14 February at Pavlodar City Criminal Court No. 2 under court chair Judge Kayirbek Yelemesov, a court official told Forum 18 on 6 February. Bashpayev faces up to seven years' imprisonment if convicted under Criminal Code Article 174, Part 1 ("Inciting social, national, clan, racial, or religious hatred or discord"). The KNB is still investigating Azatov under Criminal Code Article 174. In November 2016 he was fined under the Code of Administrative Offences for "unlawful" missionary activity. Two other Muslims, Nariman Seytzhanov and Bakhtiyorkhon Soliyev, were at that time fined along with Azatov for the same "offence". Soliyev, a Tajik citizen, was also ordered to be deported (see below). The KNB secret police in Astana also arrested and put into two months pre-trial detention Jehovah's Witnesses Teymur Akhmedov and Asaf Guliyev, although Akhmedov needs hospitalisation for cancer treatment. Judge Akmaral Isayeva, who also approved Azatov's pretrial detention, claimed this was to defend a "civilised society" (see F18News 2 February 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2252). New trial for atheist? As well as the Bashpayev case, Judge Yelemesov has also been involved in the then Article 164 (equivalent of Article 174 of the current Criminal Code) case against atheist writer Aleksandr Kharlamov (see F18News 4 September 2013 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1871), including refusing to release him from a psychiatric hospital (see F18News 22 August 2013 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1871). One doctor told Kharlamov that he had been sent to the psychiatric hospital "because you are an inconvenient person for the authorities" (see Forum 18's Kazakhstan religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1939). Officers searched Kharlamov's home in Ridder, East Kazakhstan Region, on 2 February 2017 as they appear to be preparing to bring him to trial again (see forthcoming F18News article). Criminal charges The KNB secret police lodged charges against both Bashpayev and Azatov of allegedly "inciting social, national, clan, racial, or religious hatred or discord" under Criminal Code Article 174, Part 1, prosecution and court officials told Forum 18. This Article 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". Article 174, Part 1, which Bashpayev and Azatov are charged under, punishes these actions committed by individuals. If convicted, they face two to seven years imprisonment, or two to seven years restricted freedom. Typically, during sentences of restricted freedom individuals live at home, but are not able to leave their town or city without seeking permission. They are often also banned from visiting restaurants, cafes or places of public entertainment. Kazakh human rights defenders, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, and the UN Human Rights Committee have repeatedly criticised this and other broadly defined Criminal Code articles (see F18News 2 February 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2252). If convicted, Bashpayev and Azatov are likely to be added to the Finance Ministry Financial Monitoring Committee List of individuals "connected with the financing of terrorism or extremism". All known prisoners of conscience convicted under Article 174 have been added to this List, thus freezing any bank accounts they may have, without any additional due legal process. As individuals are not told when they are added to the List, they normally only find out they have been added when they or relatives attempt to withdraw money from their bank (see F18News 10 June 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2187). Ten alleged members of the Tabligh Jamaat Muslim missionary movement were added to the List between 17 and 31 January 2017, according to the Financial Monitoring Committee website. One, Kublandy Isatayev, was sentenced in Aktobe in October 2016 to one year's imprisonment. The other nine, led by Baurzhan Beisembai, were sentenced at a group trial in Oskemen in October 2016. Seven of these were given prison terms of between one and two and a half years. The other two each received one year's "restricted freedom" punishments (see F18News 20 October 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2223). Article attacks Bashpayev On 7 January 2014, Almaty Central Mosque's website published an article commenting on a public debate involving local Salafi Muslim Oktam Zaurbekov. The debate was widely covered at the time in the local media. The article claims that Salafi Muslims - including Zaurbekov and Bashpayev - have "incited religious intolerance" by calling on Muslims not to follow the Hanafi school of Islam, which is the only form of Islam permitted in Kazakhstan (see Forum 18's Kazakhstan religious freedom survey http://forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1939). "They [Salafis] laugh at the official Imams and Muslim Board by portraying them as heretics, which is a provocation. Their call not to follow the Hanafi school established in Kazakhstan by calling it the plague of sectarianism is a provocation. They criticise Abu Hanifa [founder of the Hanafi school] and other great scholars of Islam, which is a provocation." The article claims that Salafi Muslims are "sly", giving public support to Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev while opposing the Muslim Board. "It is a contradiction. Submission to the ruler means submission to his authorised representatives. In the religious sphere this authority was given to the Muslim Board." The article refers to a 19 February 2013 statement of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, stating that "our President clearly demonstrated his position on the Muslim Board: the only officially recognised organisation of Islam in our country is the Muslim Board. The recently adopted Religion Law recognises the place and role of the Hanafi school in the spiritual life of the people. The President", the article continues, "personally asked the Muslim Board to make religious-legal rulings (fatwas) on urgent issues. This indicates the necessity of submission to the Muslim Board." Even before the Religion Law was adopted, officials were insisting that all mosques independent of the state-backed Muslim Board must be closed. All Islamic literature that is not Sunni Hanafi is banned by the stringent state censorship. All mosques must have their imams appointed by the Muslim Board, and these imams must only read out sermons at Friday prayers which have been provided to them by the Board. All mosques must also give the Board 30 per cent of their income. Independent mosques strongly objected to these state-imposed restrictions (see Forum 18's Kazakhstan religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1939). The article also claims that "they [Salafis] go on not submitting to the [official] imams of mosques, and continue their activity in discrediting the Hanafi school. This in itself is a road to extremism and undermines the security of our country. Instead of supporting President and uniting around the Muslim Board, they undermine its authority." Bashpayev's arrest Pavlodar Regional KNB secret police arrested Bashpayev on 13 October 2016. He has been held since then in Pavlodar City Police Investigation Prison. Colonel Bekezhan Kalkomanov of Pavlodar KNB claimed to Forum 18 that Bashpayev had "insulted the religious feelings of Kazakhstan's traditional Muslims". He "said on the internet that it is not right for Kazakh Muslims to visit graves and pray for their deceased relatives, which he thinks is idolatry", the Colonel told Forum 18 on 31 January. Bashpayev "also spoke against the official representatives of Islam in Kazakhstan, the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Kazakhstan [the Muslim Board], by which he tried to sow discord among the Muslims", Colonel Kalkomanov claimed. In video and audio recordings of some of his sermons posted online, Bashpayev sometimes criticised the views of the Muslim Board. In the recordings Forum 18 listened to, there were no calls for the human rights of other people to be violated. Bashpayev's fellow Muslims described him to Forum 18 as "a peaceful believer who prayed for Kazakhstan and its leaders". They added: "His only guilt is to have explained the Koran's teachings on the internet and in private discussion with other Muslim believers." Asked whether it is right to punish an individual for having a different view of Islam from that of the Muslim Board, KNB Colonel Kalkomanov replied: "This is not like the times in Kazakhstan immediately after the Soviet Union, when crowds would dictate their views. We are governed by laws and not subject to the views of crowds." Colonel Kalkomanov then added that "if the Court sees mitigating circumstances in his life or actions, maybe they will give a suspended prison sentence." Baurzhan Myrzakerov, Deputy Chief Prosecutor of Pavlodar Region, refused to say what Bashpayev allegedly did, apart from stating on 31 January "he is accused of inciting religious hatred". Azatov's first trial Meanwhile, in Astana, on 26 September 2016 an anonymous informer told the city's Anti-Extremism Police about an earlier meeting in a cafe, according to the subsequent court decision. "Azatov, together with between 40 and 50 Salafi Muslims, held an unauthorised religious discussion on 24 September from 4 pm to 7 pm." Along with Azatov, Nariman Seytzhanov and Bakhtiyorkhon Soliyev "conducted unauthorised missionary activity and propagated their radical religious ideas and beliefs." Azatov allegedly told the participants that "one needs to fear Allah and become a Muslim before one dies". Prosecutors brought cases against all three men under Administrative Code Article 490, Part 3. This bans: "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 Monthly Financial Indicators (MFIs), with deportation if the individual is a foreign citizen. Missionary activity can only be carried out by a state-approved person, from a state-approved religious community, who uses state-approved religious materials, in a place approved by the state (see Forum 18's Kazakhstan religious freedom survey http://forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1939). On 1 November 2016 Judge Kuralai Arkhabayeva of Astana's Specialised Inter-District Administrative Court fined Azatov the prescribed 100 MFIs or 212,100 Tenge under Administrative Code Article 490, Part 3. Anti-Extremism Police Officer Damir Baybazarov, who led the case, refused to discuss it with Forum 18 on 1 February. Judge Arkhabayeva defended her decision. "He was involved in missionary activity without state permission", she told Forum 18 on 1 February. Asked why she gave such a large fine to Azatov for exercising his freedom of religion and belief, she replied "he had a lawyer". Judge Arkhabayeva also fined Seytzhanov the same fine as Azatov in a separate hearing on 1 November 2016. He was fined 100 MFIs or 212,100 Tenge under Article 490, Part 3. Judge Kanat Imanaliyev of Specialised Inter-District Administrative Court imposed the same fine on Soliyev as Azatov and Seytzhanov on 21 October 2016. He also ordered him to be deported within five days, but Soliyev had already left Kazakhstan on 7 October. On 23 November 2016 Judge Madeniyet Omarbekova of Astana City Court upheld the fine on Seytzhanov. In separate hearings the following day, Judge Kazima Aytkaliyeva of Astana City Court rejected the appeals of Azatov and Soliyev and upheld the fines. Soliyev's deportation entered into force on the same day, the court decision notes. KNB secret police arrest Azatov Astana KNB opened the criminal case against Azatov in late December 2016. Officers arrested Azatov in Astana in early January 2017. Anti-Extremism Police officer Baybazarov, who led the earlier case against Azatov, told Forum 18 on 1 February that Astana KNB secret police opened the criminal case against Azatov. "The Anti-Extremism Police has nothing to do with it", he claimed. Lieutenant Colonel Daniyar Tajigulov, Deputy Chief of Astana KNB's Investigations Division refused to discuss the case. "I do not know you and we will not discuss it with you over the phone," he told Forum 18 on 1 February. He then put the phone down. On 6 January Judge Akmaral Isayeva of Astana's Saryarka District Court No. 2 agreed to the KNB request to have Azatov held in pre-trial detention. Adilet (who refused to give his last name), Judge Isayeva's assistant, would give no further details of the case on 1 February and refused to put Forum 18 through to the Judge. Judge Isayeva on 20 January similarly approved two month detention for Jehovah's Witnesses Teymur Akhmedov and Asaf Guliyev, although Akhmedov needs hospitalisation for cancer treatment. Judge Isayeva claimed the detention was to defend a "civilised society" (see F18News 2 February 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2252). The two Jehovah's Witnesses similarly face prosecution under Criminal Code Article 174 ("Inciting social, national, clan, racial, or religious hatred or discord"). Astana KNB is also leading the case against them (see F18News 2 February 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2252). (END) http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2253
  16. Kazakhstan's KNB secret police has arrested two Jehovah's Witnesses for discussing their faith with KNB informers. Teymur Akhmedov and Asaf Guliyev are in two months' pre-trial detention, although Akhmedov needs hospitalisation for cancer treatment. The Judge claimed this was to defend a "civilised society". On 18 January Kazakhstan's National Security Committee (KNB) secret police arrested two Jehovah's Witnesses in the capital Astana, for discussing their faith with young people recruited as KNB informers. A court ordered Teymur Akhmedov and Asaf Guliyev to be held in pre-trial detention for two months, although Akhmedov is suffering from cancer and needs hospitalisation. The Jehovah's Witnesses appear, as in other cases involving Muslim and Protestant prisoners of conscience, to have been set up for prosecution by the KNB using informers it recruited. These informers invited the Witnesses to meetings the KNB recorded (see below). Judge Akmaral Isayeva claimed that the Jehovah's Witnesses' "crime presents a danger to the public in that it violates a fundamental constitutional principle, the principle of equality". She goes on to claim that "observance of this principle is one of most important conditions for the existence and development of any civilised society" (see below). The Judge was presented with a report from the National Scientific Center for Oncology and Transplantation (the national cancer centre) which "recommends an operation and requests that Akhmedov undergo an examination before being hospitalised". His lawyer argued that he should therefore held in house arrest to enable treatment. But the Judge refused this, claiming that the "report is a recommendation". The Judge has been repeatedly unavailable for questions, so Forum 18 has been unable to ask her how her decision demonstrated that Kazakhstan was a "civilised society" (see below). At least two Muslims, Kuanysh Bashpayev from Pavlodar and Satimzhan Azatov from Astana, are also in pre-trial detention facing similar accusations (see forthcoming F18News article). Adventist prisoner of conscience Yklas Kabduakasov has tried to appeal against his imprisonment to the Supreme Court, but this has been refused. Fellow-Christians state that "Yklas conveys his greetings to all who are praying for him .. these letters are a great support to him" (see below). Criminal charges All four men are facing charges under Criminal Code Article 174 ("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 the two Jehovah's Witnesses Akhmedov and Guliyev are charged under, 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". Part 1, which the two Muslims Bashpayev and Azatov are charged under, punishes these actions committed by individuals. If convicted, they face two to seven years imprisonment, or two to seven years restricted freedom. Typically, during sentences of restricted freedom individuals live at home, but are not able to leave their town or city without seeking permission. They are often also banned from visiting restaurants, cafes or places of public entertainment. If convicted, the Muslims and Jehovah's Witnesses are likely to be added to the Finance Ministry Financial Monitoring Committee List of individuals "connected with the financing of terrorism or extremism". All known prisoners of conscience convicted under Article 174 have been added to this List, thus freezing any bank accounts they may have, without any additional due legal process. As the government does not state who is on the List, people normally find out they have been added when they or relatives attempt to withdraw money from their account (see F18News 10 June 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2187). Human rights defenders' criticise Article 174 Article 174 has been strongly criticised by the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Maina Kiai. He stated that Articles such as this "pose serious risks of criminalizing and penalizing legitimate activities of associations". "The Code does not strictly define what is meant by ‘incitement of discord', which may leave the term open for arbitrary interpretation," he warned in his 16 June 2015 report following his January visit to Kazakhstan (A/HRC/29/25/Add.2) (see F18News 9 November 2015 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2119). During the visit he noted stated intimidation of those he met and commented on officials' "general unwillingness to properly protect human rights" (see F18News 25 February 2015 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2043). Kazakh human rights defenders have repeatedly called for Criminal Code Article 174 to be reworded or abolished. "We have more than once criticised it [Article 174] because it does not contain a precise and clear formulation of what constitutes social, national or other hatred," Yevgeny Zhovtis of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law told a press conference in Almaty in January 2016. Twelve Kazakh human rights organisations, including Adil Soz and the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law, strongly criticised the government's human rights record to the UN Human Rights Committee (see F18News 8 June 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2186). In June 2016 the Human Rights Committee expressed concern about "the broad formulation of the concepts of ‘extremism', ‘inciting social or class hatred' and ‘religious hatred or enmity' under the State party‘s criminal legislation and the use of such legislation on extremism to unduly restrict freedoms of religion, expression, assembly and association (see F18News 22 July 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2201). Informers, secret surveillance The two Jehovah's Witnesses are 60-year old Teymur Akhmedov and 43-year old Asaf Guliyev. Teymur Sultan ogly Akhmedov (born 7 May 1956) is married with three sons, and suffers from cancer (see below). Asaf Gadzhiaga ogly Guliyev (born 4 October 1973), who is also married, is a citizen of Azerbaijan but long resident in Kazakhstan. In the indictment of the two Jehovah's Witnesses, seen by Forum 18, Major Medet Duskaziyev of Astana KNB secret police gives short accounts of what he claims were conversations Akhmedov and Guliyev had about their faith with others in 2016. The conversations were in private homes of city residents, and Major Duskaziyev claims that the two men "spoke negatively about representatives of the religions of Islam and Orthodoxy" and "advocated the exclusivity and superiority of one religion over another". In Major Duskaziyev's view this constituted violations of Criminal Code Article 174, Part 2. "Akhmedov committed a grave crime against public order and security," he claimed. Jehovah's Witnesses described Akhmedov and Guliyev as "victims of a fabricated case." They told Forum 18 on 31 January that the two men were invited to the rented flats of several adult males, who claimed to be university students interested in the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses. Akhmedov and Guliyev met the young men for discussions on various dates in 2016. "Unbeknown to Akhmedov and Guliyev the ‘students' covertly recorded the discussions using a high quality video camera," Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. All the approximately 16 religious discussions "were secretly video recorded". During those discussions, the "students" asked Akhmedov and Guliyev "provocative questions about Islam and the Russian Orthodox Church". Jehovah's Witnesses insist that despite Major Duskaziyev's claims, their discussions "were entirely peaceful". Asked about the case on 27 January, Astana KNB told Forum 18 that Major Duskaziyev was "not available," and referred it his superior, Lieutenant Colonel Daniyar Tajigulov, Deputy Head of the Investigations Division. Asked why the KNB was doing this, he replied "I cannot discuss this with you over the phone." "Operational/investigative measures" The government seems to often use the KNB secret police to set people up to exercise their internationally recognised right to freedom of religion and belief, and then jail them for exercising their freedom. The KNB is routinely in the lead in such prosecutions, describing the spies and informers it uses as carrying out "operational/investigative measures". The KNB-led investigations and prosecutions rely on the regime having banned many aspects of the right to freedom of religion and belief. This includes banning exercising this freedom by people without state permission, banning sharing beliefs without state permission, and banning religious publications that have not passed state censorship (see Forum 18's Kazakhstan religious freedom survey http://forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1939). Seventh-day Adventist prisoner of conscience Yklas Kabduakasov was in December 2015 sentenced to two years in a labour camp, for discussing his faith with students recruited by the KNB secret police in a KNB-rented flat (see F18News 29 December 2015 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2136). In June 2016 Muslim Rustam Musayev was imprisoned for two years in a labour camp for talking to possible KNB officers about his Islamic faith. The KNB recorded the discussions and they may have set up the meetings (see F18News 10 November 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2229). Both were, like the two Jehovah's Witnesses currently in pre-trial detention, charged under Criminal Code Article 174, Part 1. Forum 18 spoke to one KNB spy, Sanat Aktenberdy, used to infiltrate and find evidence to jail members of the Tabligh Jamaat Islamic missionary movement. He refused to explain to Forum 18 what if any wrongdoing he might have found, or what exactly the alleged "extremist activity" of the movement is (see F18News 22 April 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2170). Alleged members of Tabligh Jammat continue to be jailed with the KNB being in the lead of prosecutions. Two - Saken Tulbayev and Khalambakhi Khalym - were convicted and imprisoned under Criminal Code Article 174, Part 1. Like the other 44 alleged members of Tabligh Jamaat prosecuted since December 2014, they were also sentenced under Criminal Code Article 405. This punishes involvement in a "banned movement" (see F18News 9 January 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2245). Warning letters On 14 January Almazbek Mambetov, of Astana Administration's Religious Affairs Department, sent Akhmedov and Guliyev warning letters. The texts, seen by Forum 18, are identical and state that the Religious Affairs Department "warns you of the following in connection with a complaint (..) received from citizen of the Republic of Kazakhstan A. A. Rakhymzhanov, born 10 November 1997." According to Rakhymzhanov's alleged complaint, the Jehovah's Witnesses "tried to persuade him that it was the only true religion" and "coerced him to adopt their faith." "It is prohibited for religious associations to forcibly involve citizens of Kazakhstan, foreigners and stateless persons in their activity," Mambetov states. He stresses that prior official permission is required for "missionary" activity (see Forum 18's Kazakhstan religious freedom survey http://forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1939). In conclusion he warns them to "obey the Laws of the Republic of Kazakhstan in relation to religion". Arrest, pre-trial detention KNB secret police officers arrested Akhmedov and Guliyev in Astana on 18 January. On 19 January the KNB charged the two men under Criminal Code Article 174, Part 2 and Major Duskaziyev requested that they be held in two months' pre-trial detention. On 20 January Judge Akmaral Isayeva of Saryarka District Court No. 2, in separate hearings for the two men approved this. "Danger to the public", "civilised society"? Judge Isayeva in her decision argues that Akhmedov is "suspected of committing a grave criminal offence". She claims that "this crime presents a danger to the public in that it violates a fundamental constitutional principle, the principle of equality". She goes on to claim that "observance of this principle is one of most important conditions for the existence and development of any civilised society." The Judge added that the "object against which the crime was committed is the principle of international law and the constitutional principle that the incitement of of social, national, clan, racial, or religious hatred or discord must not be allowed." Jehovah's Witnesses state that in court they raised the freedoms enshrined in the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, which Kazakhstan has a solemn international obligation to implement, and the UN Human Rights Committee's criticisms. But these points were ignored. Detaining not hospitalising a cancer sufferer Judge Isayeva notes in her decision that Akhmedov's lawyer "made a motion for preventive measures in the form of house arrest to be imposed because her client suffers from cancer." A report from the National Scientific Center for Oncology and Transplantation (the national cancer centre) was submitted to the court, which "recommends an operation and requests that Akhmedov undergo an examination before being hospitalised." Judge Isayeva argues that the "report is a recommendation," but that the "defence did not submit any documents proving that it was impossible for the suspect to be in detention due to his illness." Therefore, the "court denies the defence lawyer's motion to impose preventive measures in the form of house arrest." The Judge further argues that "considering that Akhmedov is suspected of committing a grave criminal offence (..), the court has grounds to believe that if he is left at large, he could hide from the pre-trial investigation agency and the court, obstruct an objective investigation of the case, and continue to engage in criminal activity. Therefore the court finds no grounds for denying the investigator's motion and imposes preventive measures on Akhmedov in the form of detention." Between 25 and 27 January Saryarka District Court No. 2 officials, including Judge Isayeva, were repeatedly claimed to be "busy" and not available to answer questions. So Forum 18 was unable to ask Judge Isayeva to explain how putting two men entrapped by the KNB into detention, one of whom has cancer and a medical recommendation for hospitalisation, demonstrated that Kazakhstan was a "civilised society". What "grave crime against public order and security"? Kanat Tileuzhan of Saryarka District Prosecutor's Office, who is leading the prosecution in the case, told Forum 18 on 26 January that the initiative to put prisoners of conscience Akhmedov and Guliyev in custody was "not my own decision but our whole leadership supported it." Told that Jehovah's Witnesses think that that the case is fabricated by the KNB, and asked what exactly the alleged "grave crime against public order and security" was, Prosecutor Tileuzhan replied: "I am not competent to talk to you over the phone." On 30 January, Judge Eleonora Ungarsynova of the Judicial Chamber for Criminal Cases of the Astana City Court in separate hearings rejected Akhmedov and Guliyev's appeal against the pre-trial detention (see below). Held at Astana Investigation Prison Prisoners of conscience Akhmedov and Guliyev are being held in Astana's Investigation Prison No. 12. Major Majidov (who would not give his first name) of the prison claimed to Forum 18 on 24 that "they are doing fine." "They have food and all they need." Asked whether they can read their Bibles and pray, Majidov did not answer. "I cannot discuss this over the phone," he told Forum 18. He then declined to talk further, asking for any questions to be sent in writing. The UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (known as the Mandela Rules, A/C.3/70/L.3), which require governments to respect the freedom of religion or belief and other human rights of prisoners. Muslim prisoners of conscience have stated that their human rights are violated in prison, including by being banned from reading the Koran and other religious books (see eg. F18News 9 March 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2156). Akhmedov and Guliyev's prison address is: 010000 Astana Alash Tas Zhol street 30/1 SI-12 (ETs 166/1) Kazakhstan Supreme Court refuses to hear challenge Adventist prisoner of conscience Kabduakasov tried to appeal against his imprisonment to the Supreme Court in Astana. However, in November 2016 the Supreme Court refused to accept the appeal. The Court "did not give any explanation for its decision to the lawyer," Kabduakasov's fellow-Christians told Forum 18 on 23 January. He was in December 2015 sentenced to two years in a labour camp, for discussing his faith with students recruited by the KNB secret police in a KNB-rented flat (see F18News 29 December 2015 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2136). Prisoner of conscience Kabduakasov is serving his two-year prison sentence in the northern city of Pavlodar. "Nothing has changed with Yklas yet," fellow-Christians stated. "He was refused the right to be released on parole." They added that "Yklas conveys his greetings to all who are praying for him. He said that he receives up to 150 letters from around the world every day, and that these letters are a great support to him." His prison address is: 140000 g. Pavlodar Severnaya promyshlennaya zona Uchr. AP-162/3, 4 otryad Kabduakasovu Yklasu Kairullinovichu Kazakhstan Muslim prisoner of conscience Tulbayev is also in the same prison. On 2 July 2015 he was sentenced to four years eight months' imprisonment. He was also banned from exercising freedom of religion or belief, including praying with others and reading the Koran, until the end of 2022 three years after his release (see F18News 8 July 2015 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2078). His prison address is: 140000 g. Pavlodar Severnaya promyshlennaya zona Uchr. AP-162/3 Tulbayevu Sakenu Peisenovichu Kazakhstan (END) http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2252
  17. Three policemen, one civilian were killed, and several others were injured following an attack on a police station in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, the country's interior ministry said. One of the attackers has been detained.
  18. Three policemen, one civilian were killed, and several others were injured following an attack on a police station in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, the country's interior ministry said. One of the attackers has been detained.
  19. Kazakhstan has misled the UN Human Rights Committee about the numbers of people it has fined and jailed for exercising freedom of religion and belief. Four days after the Human Rights Committee examined the country, Kazakhstan fined three more people for exercising their freedom. Contrary to claims by Kazakhstan's Delegation to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee in late June that just eight individuals had been so far in 2016 punished for violating the Religion Law, the true number is higher, Forum 18 notes. More than 20 individuals are known to have been punished for exercising the right to freedom of religion and belief without state permission. Most of the Muslims, Protestants and Jehovah's Witnesses were punished for offering religious literature the state has not approved in places the state has not permitted, talking about their beliefs with other people without state permission, or meeting for worship without state permission. Also, two shop owners have been fined for having religious literature in their shops without state permission, and banned from commercial activity for three months (see list at base of this article). At least one person, Baptist Roman Dimmel, was given a short-term jail term for refusing to pay earlier fines for such "offences”. There are also increasing numbers of Muslim and Christian prisoners of conscience given long jail terms for exercising freedom of religion and belief. In addition to being jailed, these prisoners of conscience also have bank accounts blocked by the government without being informed of this, without additional legal process, and are also required to pay for "expert analyses” used to convict them Four days after the Human Rights Committee considered Kazakhstan's record under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in Geneva on 22-23 June, three more Muslims in the eastern town of Semei were fined for going door to door to talk to people about their beliefs and invite them to a mosque (see below). Kazakhstan's Delegation similarly understated the known number of individuals punished for, contrary to the Religion Law, exercising their freedom of religion and belief in 2013. This has been the peak year so far for such punishments (see below). Twelve Kazakh human rights defender organisations have strongly criticised the government's record to the Human Rights Committee, including the ban on exercising freedom of religion and belief without state permission. They noted that the government directly violates its UN human rights obligations Nearly 50 Jehovah's Witnesses from Kazakhstan have joined complaints to the Human Rights Committee against fines (and deportation for foreigners) imposed for sharing their faith with others On 27 June Kazakhstan was elected onto the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member for two years from 1 January 2017. Fines without court hearings start being imposed In a new move, police have without a court hearing started to fine people for exercising their freedom of religion and belief. Three Council of Churches Baptists have been fined by police without trial so far in 2016. Prosecutors later annulled one of the fines. Police have had the right to issue certain fines for exercise freedom of religion and belief without state permission since the beginning of 2015. But Baptists state that such summary police fines were not used against them before early 2016 (see forthcoming F18News article). Recent fines for exercising freedom of religion and belief In addition to the Muslims fined for exercising their freedom of religion and belief while the Human Rights Committee examined the government's record, in April 2016 a shopkeeper in the northern city of Petropavl was fined for religious books his wife kept in his shop. He was also banned from conducting commercial activity for three months. Also in April, two Muslims visiting the southern town of Zhetysai were fined for standing outside the main mosque encouraging others to attend the namaz (prayers). Protestants were also fined in Spring 2016 for meeting for worship without state permission (see below). Punishments are generally fines of 50 or 100 Monthly Financial Indicators (MFIs). A fine of 100 MFIs is currently 212,100 Tenge (about 5,200 Norwegian Kroner, 560 Euros or 625 US Dollars). This is about seven weeks' average wages for those in work, according to June 2016 average income figures from the government's Statistics Committee. However, some of those fined are unemployed or pensioners on lower incomes. "False information”? The Kazakh Delegation to the Human Rights Committee – which was led by Deputy Justice Minister Elvira Azimova – admitted that "a 100 or so” individuals were in 2013 punished under the Code of Administrative Offences for violating the Religion Law, according to the 23 June 2016 French-language UN press report on the session But the Delegation understated the number of individuals punished in 2013, the peak year so far for such punishments. Forum 18 has documented 153 such punishments on 126 named individuals between January and early November 2013. Other individuals also appear to have been punished. As noted above, punishments for exercising freedom of religion and belief continued until the end of 2013 and beyond. This includes the more than 20 people known to have been so far punished in 2016 (see list at base of this article). This compares to the 8 in 2016 claimed by the Kazakh Delegation. Zukhra Galiyeva, an aide to Minister Azimova, told Forum 18 from Astana on 14 July that the Minister was not available. Asked whether the government Delegation had not been informed of the true numbers of those punished for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief or had deliberately given the UN Committee lower figures, Galiyeva responded of Minister Azimova: "She didn't give false information.” However, Galiyeva refused to give any further information, including how many individuals are currently being punished for exercising freedom of religion or belief and why. She said all questions should be sent by post to the Justice Ministry. New restrictions on freedom of religion and belief planned Continuing punishments for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief come as officials draft further amendments to the Religion Law and Criminal and Administrative Codes. These amendments seem set to impose even more restrictions on the right to freedom of religion or belief, with possible wider or increased punishments in the two Codes Fined after Human Rights Committee examines record On 7 June, three Muslims were stopped in the dacha district of Vostochnoi in Semei, in East Kazakhstan Region. Bakhytbek Tursynov, Erzhan Shomatayev and Asilkhan Tumeshbayev were speaking to local residents about their faith on the way back from evening prayers in the mosque. East Kazakhstan Regional Internal Policy Department drew up a record of an offence against Tursynov, Shomatayev and Tumeshbayev under Administrative Code Article 490, Part 3. 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 (The UN Human Rights Committee considered Kazakhstan's record under the ICCPR in Geneva on 22-23 June.) On 27 June Judge Gibrat Valiyev of Semei Specialised Administrative Court found all three Muslims guilty. He imposed the prescribed fine of 100 MFIs, 212,100 Tenge, according to the court verdict of 28 June seen by Forum 18. The three men "do not consider their actions missionary activity”, the court verdict cites them as telling the hearing, "as inviting people to the mosque is the obligation (farz) of every Muslim”. Kazakhstan requires that only people with state permission may share their beliefs and imposes severe restrictions on who may talk about their beliefs, where they may talk about them, and what materials they may use Petropavl: shopkeeper fined for religious books On 4 January, officials including at least one religious affairs official raided Rustem Seidaliyev's shop in Petropavl's Korona shopping centre. The officials found religious literature on the top shelf of the display window. As Seidaliyev does not have the compulsory state permission to sell religious literature, they insisted he had committed a crime or an offence. Kazakhstan imposes state censorship on all religious literature and objects, for example banning all Muslim literature that is not Sunni Hanafi, and imposes strict limitations on who may sell or distribute such material and where this may happen. Some bookshops which might be able to get state permission for this have decided not to apply for permission for fear of problems from the authorities On 29 February, officials decided to halt a criminal investigation against Seidaliyev, according to the subsequent court verdict in the case. On 17 March Bulat Omarov of North Kazakhstan Region Religious Affairs Department drew up a record of an offence 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 On 20 April, Judge Alena Devyatkina of Petropavl Specialised Administrative Court rejected Seidaliyev's insistence that the religious books were not being offered for sale, and that his wife kept them in his shop. His wife teaches religion in a mosque in the city, she told the court, and used the books to teach fellow female Muslims. However, the Judge dismissed Seidaliyev's wife's testimony as invalid because she would not want her husband to be punished. Judge Devyatkina punished Seidaliyev with the prescribed fine of 50 MFIs, 106,050 Tenge, according to the court verdict seen by Forum 18. Seidaliyev was also banned from commercial activity for three months. He did not appeal against the punishment and the court verdict came into force on 4 May, according to court records. The court verdict does not say whether officials confiscated any religious books in the 4 January raid and, if so, whether they were to be returned to Seidaliyev, handed to someone else or ordered destroyed. Courts frequently order religious books to be destroyed "It's not correct to ask who suffered” Duman Espenbetov, who represented the regional Religious Affairs Department, refused to discuss the court verdict. "Our law says no one has the right to comment on court verdicts,” he claimed to Forum 18 from Petropavl on 12 July. He refused to say if officials confiscated any religious books from Seidaliyev. Asked who had suffered because Seidaliyev had had religious books in his shop, Espenbetov responded: "It's not correct to ask who suffered. He broke the law.” Asked why books related to religion are under government censorship, he denied that censorship is imposed. Asked whether Seidaliyev would have been fined had the books been about football he refused to respond and put the phone down. On 23 May, court bailiffs began proceedings to recover the unpaid fine from Seidaliyev, according to Justice Ministry records. The telephone of Irina Fomkina, the bailiff in Petropavl handling the case, was switched off when Forum 18 called on 14 July. Spring 2016: raided, fined for meeting for worship without state permission In Spring, on the same day, police raided five Protestant congregations in an area of Kazakhstan, fellow Protestants told Forum 18. They asked that names and other identifying details not be given for fear of state reprisals. The congregations have chosen not to apply for state permission to exist, as is their right under Kazakhstan's international human rights obligations. Against international human rights law, Kazakhstan bans all exercise of freedom of religion and belief by more than one person without state permission. During the raids, police confiscated religious literature, documents, computers and money, fellow Protestants complained. Officers told church members that their activity was banned as they do not have state registration. Administrative cases against several church members were handed to court and they were subsequently fined. As the church members refused to pay the fines, court bailiffs came to the individuals' homes and confiscated money and other items. "The churches are under close surveillance and can't function as they would wish,” fellow Protestants told Forum 18. All religious communities are thought to be under surveillance by the ordinary police and National Security Committee (KNB) secret police Zhetysai: fined for inviting people to meet for worship In Zhetysai, in South Kazakhstan Region, two Muslims have been punished for inviting people to worship in the town's main mosque. Kairat Abuov of the regional Religious Affairs Department found the two men – Askar Kaliyev from Atyrau and Shokan Ualikhanov from Almaty – inviting people to pray on 4 April. The two Muslims do not live in Zhetysai. At separate hearings on the evening of 8 April, Judge Altai Utemisov of Maktaaral District Court found Kaliyev and Ualikhanov guilty of violating Administrative Code Article 490, Part 3 (""Carrying out missionary activity without state registration”). The Judge imposed the prescribed fine of 100 MFIs, 212,100 Tenge, according to the court verdicts seen by Forum 18. Neither appealed against the fines and the decisions came into force on 19 April. "They were talking to people about their faith” Abuov of the regional Religious Affairs Department defended the prosecution of the two men. "They were talking to people about their faith and coming to people's homes,” he told Forum 18 from the regional capital Shymkent on 12 July. Asked why talking to others of their faith should lead to punishment, Abuov laughed. "They broke the law.” Abuov said Kaliyev and Ualikhanov had approached two people walking on the street. When they invited them to pray at the mosque, one of them called the police. "In Kazakhstan no-one can approach another person and tell them to come to a place of worship, except an imam or clergyman,” Abuov insisted to Forum 18. "They are not officials of a religious organisation approved as missionaries. People don't want to listen to things about religion from unknown people.” On 28 June, court bailiffs in Kaliyev's home city of Atyrau began proceedings to recover the unpaid fine from him, according to Justice Ministry records. Reached in Atyrau by Forum 18 on 12 July, the bailiff handling the case, Kuanish Kaliyev (no relation), refused to discuss how he plans to recover the money from Askar Kaliyev. Atyrau: appeals fail Two members of the Protestant New Life Church in Atyrau failed to overturn earlier fines on appeal. In separate hearings on 23 June, Judge Bagila Nurzhanova of Atyrau Regional Court upheld the fines of 35 MFIs each and a three-month ban on unspecified activity on Bagitzhan Zholdybayev and Aleksandr Revkov, according to the court verdicts seen by Forum 18. The two men were punished on 26 May under Administrative Code Article 490, Part 1, Point 1 for drinking tea in a café with five other church members after their Sunday meeting for worship on 17 April Known 2016 Administrative Code punishments (Name; faith or occupation; date and place of hearing; Administrative Code article; punishment.) 1. Viktor Shtrek; Jehovah's Witness; 25 January Ayirtau District Court; Article 490, Part 3; fine 100 MFIs. 2. Ruslan Bayanbayev; Jehovah's Witness; 28 January Almaty Specialised Interdistrict Administrative Court; Article 490, Part 7; fine 50 MFIs (acquitted on appeal). 3. Ruslan Bayanbayev (second case); Jehovah's Witness; 18 February Almaty Specialised Interdistrict Administrative Court; Article 490, Part 7; fine 50 MFIs. 4. Tatyana Pastukhova; giftshop owner; 25 February Atyrau Specialised Administrative Court; Article 490, Part 1, Point 3; fine 35 MFIs, plus 3 month ban on commercial activity. 5. Gennadi Zhirov; Council of Churches Baptist; 24 March Arkalyk City Court; Article 490, Part 1, Point 3; fine 35 MFIs (book destruction order overturned on appeal). 6. Yuri Bekker; Council of Churches Baptist; 24 March Arkalyk City Court; Article 490, Part 1, Point 3; fine 35 MFIs (book destruction order overturned on appeal). 7. Shokan Ualikhanov; Muslim; 8 April Maktaaral District Court; Article 490, Part 3; fine 100 MFIs. 8. Askar Kaliyev; Muslim; 8 April Maktaaral District Court; Article 490, Part 3; fine 100 MFIs. 9. Nikolai Levin; Council of Churches Baptist; 20 April Sandiktau District Court; Article 669; fine 10 MFIs. 10. Rustem Seidaliyev; shopkeeper; 20 April Petropavl Specialised Administrative Court; Article 490, Part 1, Point 3; fine 50 MFIs, plus 3 month ban on commercial activity. 11. Dina Sarsebekova; Jehovah's Witness; 25 April Oral Specialised Administrative Court; Article 490, Part 3; fine 100 MFIs. 12. Roman Dimmel; Council of Churches Baptist; 3 May Shet District Court; Article 669; 3 days' prison. 13. Yegor Prokopenko; Council of Churches Baptist; 22 May Zyryanovsk police; Article 489, Part 9; fine 100 MFIs. 14. Bagitzhan Zholdybayev; Pentecostal; 26 May Atyrau Specialised Administrative Court; Article 490, Part 1, Point 1; fine 35 MFIs, plus 3 month ban on unspecified activity. 15. Aleksandr Revkov; Pentecostal; 26 May Atyrau Specialised Administrative Court; Article 490, Part 1, Point 1; fine 35 MFIs, plus 3 month ban on unspecified activity. 16. Bakhytbek Tursynov; Muslim; 28 June Semei Specialised Administrative Court; Article 490, Part 3; fine 100 MFIs. 17. Erzhan Shomatayev; Muslim; 28 June Semei Specialised Administrative Court; Article 490, Part 3; fine 100 MFIs. 18. Asilkhan Tumeshbayev; Muslim; 28 June Semei Specialised Administrative Court; Article 490, Part 3; fine 100 MFIs. 19. Council of Churches Baptist; date unknown Akmola; Article 489; police imposed fine without court hearing (Prosecutor later annulled fine). 20. Council of Churches Baptist; date unknown Pavlodar; Article 489; police imposed fine of 50 MFI's without court hearing. 21. [Names withheld for fear of state reprisals]; Protestants; one area in Spring 2016; fines after 5 raids on same day. (END) http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2199
  20. By Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service On 15 February a court in Kazakhstan's capital Astana upheld the Prosecutor's suit to ban four further Christian books as "extremist", according to the decision seen by Forum 18. The books were among 47 items seized when Christian prisoner of conscience Yklas Kabduakasov was arrested. Prosecutor Temirlan Adilkhanov, who led the case in court, told Forum 18 he "can't remember" in what ways the books might have caused harm to anyone. "I knew nothing about the case until the court decision came into force on 15 March," one of the authors, Pastor Manarbek Baieke, complained to Forum 18. "They concocted all this out of thin air." He fears the ban might provide the authorities with a reason to arrest him. Religious believers have expressed concern over a list of 254 "radical" religious books, including Muslim, Ahmadi Muslim, Christian, Hare Krishna and Jehovah's Witness items. Shortandy District Administration said that Akmola Regional Religious Affairs Department gave them the list in late 2015 for publication. Asked the status of books on the list, an official of Akmola Regional Religious Affairs Department explained to Forum 18: "If it is on the list it is banned." Four further religious books have been banned as "extremist" by a court in Kazakhstan's capital Astana on 15 February, according to the decision seen by Forum 18 News Service. Court officials told Forum 18 that the one-month period for lodging appeals against the ban has now passed and no appeals were received in that time. Local Christians told Forum 18 that nothing in the books incites violence, hostility or law-breaking. The Prosecutor who prepared and led the case in court, Temirlan Adilkhanov, told Forum 18 on 16 March that he "can't remember" in what ways the four Christian books might have caused harm to anyone. The suit to ban the four Christian books was initiated following the August 2015 arrest of Seventh-day Adventist Yklas Kabduakasov. The books were among many the National Security Committee (KNB) secret police seized from his home on the day of his arrest. Kabduakasov was later convicted of inciting religious hatred – charges he and his fellow-believers vigorously reject. He is serving a two-year prison term in a labour camp in Pavlodar (see F18News 9 March 2016http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2156). Although police have been confiscating copies of the four books in recent years and fining those who own them, the books appear not to have been banned by a court before. However, officials appear to have told no-one that they had brought the suit to court to ban the books, let alone the authors or publishers. Since the ban, local officials in some areas have written to leaders of registered religious communities not to use the four books and to "hand them in" if they have them. In other court hearings, Jehovah's Witnesses have again failed to overturn bans on the import of some of their magazines and brochures. Some articles in them were said to have violated the law. In one case, Jehovah's Witnesses failed to get the court to even consider a suit to overturn a ban on a Uighur-language brochure (see below). The bans were imposed by the Culture and Sport Ministry's Religious Affairs Committee as part of the government-instituted compulsory prior censorship of all religious literature published or distributed in Kazakhstan or imported into the country (see Forum 18's Kazakhstan religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1939). Galym Shoikin, head of the Religious Affairs Committee in Astana, put the phone down on 15 March as soon as Forum 18 began asking about the religious book bans. All subsequent calls went unanswered. As well as members of religious communities, booksellers are frequent targets for punishment for selling books about religion without the compulsory licence from the Regional Administration (see Forum 18's Kazakhstan religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1939). The state-enforced religious censorship also extends to prisoners. They are only officially allowed to have religious books which have had prior approval and are stamped as approved. Even then, relatives of those imprisoned for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief are often not allowed to hand in Korans or Bibles or other religious literature to their imprisoned relatives (see F18News 9 March 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2156). Are "radical" books banned or not? Although the General Prosecutor's Office publishes on its website a list of 666 "religious" books and materials banned as "extremist", the list includes many books which are not religious (such as Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf") and does not include other religious books known to have been banned. Moreover, religious believers have expressed concern to Forum 18 about a separate list of 254 religious books – including Muslim, Ahmadi Muslim, Christian, Hare Krishna and Jehovah's Witness publications – which are described as "radical". The list is available on the website of Shortandy District Administration. Officials there and at Akmola Regional Religious Affairs Department were unable to explain to Forum 18 if the listed books were banned or not, but said that the list had come from the Culture and Sport Ministry's Religious Affairs Committee in late 2015. The list included 162 general Muslim books, 2 by Muhammad Yusuf Kandahlawi and Muhammad Zakariya Kandahlawi (which the list linked to the banned Tabligh Jamaat Muslim missionary movement), 24 which it linked to the Ahmadi Muslim community, 14 Jehovah's Witness publications, 5 Hare Krishna publications and 25 Christian publications. Those the state regards as followers of Tabligh Jamaat face administrative and criminal prosecution. Of 29 criminal cases since December 2014, 13 men were given prison terms as prisoners of conscience, the other 12 being given sentences of restricted freedom. Three more men are on trial in Karaganda and another is awaiting trial in Astana (see F18News 25 February 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2153). All the Ahmadi Muslim communities in Kazakhstan have been banned from functioning with no clear official explanation. The authorities have allowed only one Muslim organisation in the entire country – the state-controlled Muslim Board – from gaining state registration. This gives it a monopoly over Muslim activity and effectively bans any non-Hanafi Sunni Muslim communities from functioning (see Forum 18's Kazakhstan religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1939). All four of the Christian books banned in Astana in February were already on the Shortandy District Administration website list, Forum 18 notes. Saule Kusenova of Shortandy District Administration's Internal Policy Department – which oversees religious activity as part of its official tasks – said that Akmola Regional Religious Affairs Department gave them the list in late 2015 for publication. She told Forum 18 on 16 March that she was unable to explain whether items on the list were therefore banned or not. An official of Akmola Regional Religious Affairs Department told Forum 18 the same day that such lists are produced and distributed by the Religious Affairs Committee in Astana "so that people don't use" such literature. "People shouldn't read or use it," the official – who would not give his name – insisted. "If it is on the list it is banned." No one at the Religious Affairs Committee in Astana was prepared to explain to Forum 18 whether the publications on the Shortandy District Administration website list but not on the General Prosecutor's Office list are also banned and, if so, when and where they were banned. Secret police-commissioned "expert" analysis On 14 August 2015, KNB secret police and ordinary police seized Christian materials from the Astana home of Adventist Kabduakasov. Many of the materials touched on Christianity and Christians and their relationship to Islam. KNB secret police Investigator Nurlan Belesov sent the 47 books, discs and flash drives on 24 August 2015 for a "complex judicial psychological/philological expert analysis" to the Justice Ministry's Central Institute of Judicial Expert Analysis in Astana. The 29-page analysis (seen by Forum 18) – by Sholpan Sisimbayeva of the Centre and Roza Akbarova, nominated by the KNB secret police – was completed on 7 September 2015. Sisimbayeva and Akbarova concluded that some of the items (including the four works subsequently banned) "contain expressions of the exclusivity and superiority of Christianity over Islam". Some also "contain features of inter-ethnic and religious hatred and discord, as well as expressions of the superiority of the Christian religion and the inadequacy of the Islamic religion". The four books subsequently banned also "contain propaganda for the subversion of state security, inter-confessional and inter-ethnic accord and social/political stability". Court bans as "extremist" On 27 January, Astana City Prosecutor's Office brought a suit to the city's Esil District Court to ban four of Kabduakasov's Christian books as "extremist". The four books were: "Worthy Answers" by two local Protestants, Galymzhan Tanatgan and Zhomart Temir (in Kazakh and in Russian translation); "Share Your Faith with a Muslim" by the late British Brethren author and former missionary to Algeria Charles Marsh (in Russian translation); "Called to the Great Commission" by local Protestant Kanat Oryntai uuli (in Russian); and "The History of Christianity in Central Asia and Kazakhstan" by local Protestant Manarbek Baieke (in Kazakh and in Russian translation). Joining the Prosecutor's Office in court proceedings were the Religious Affairs Committee, the Interior Ministry, the Finance Ministry's State Income Committee and the Investment and Development Ministry's Communications, Informatisation and Information Committee. Bektyrsin Mirzabayev and Asel Kuzembayeva represented the Religious Affairs Committee in court and E. Mambetov the Interior Ministry. On 15 February, Judge Zaure Zholamanova of Esil District Court accepted the Prosecutor's suit and banned the import, publication or distribution of the four books in Kazakhstan. "The decision is subject to immediate fulfilment," according to the court decision seen by Forum 18. The decision claims the hearing was open, but because it was not publicised in advance those unhappy at the suit did not know it was taking place and could not therefore attend. The telephone of Judge Zholamanova went unanswered each time Forum 18 called on 15 and 16 March. The General Prosecutor's Office added the four books to its list of banned religious materials on about 16 March. "I knew nothing about the case" The publishers of the four books – Litera-M in the case of "Worthy Answers" and "The History of Christianity in Central Asia and Kazakhstan", and the German Protestant mission Friedensstimme in the case of "Share Your Faith with a Muslim" – were not informed of the suit either before or after the case was heard, Friedensstimme mission told Forum 18 on 15 March. Nor were the authors who are still alive. "I knew nothing about the case until the court decision came into force on 15 March," Pastor Baieke complained to Forum 18 on 16 March. "The court authorities did not inform me. So I have not been given the chance to appeal." Pastor Baieke insisted that his book is not extremist "and does not even contain a hint of extremism". "They concocted all this out of thin air," he added. "They accused me in a one-sided way without the chance to respond." He fears the authorities may use the book ban as a reason to arrest him. "Experts work in accordance with the law"? Lyazzat Kalybekova, a colleague of Mirzabayev and Kuzembayeva at the Religious Affairs Committee in Astana, defended the process of banning religious books through the courts. "If material violates the law we prepare an expert analysis and a court takes a decision on this basis," she insisted to Forum 18 from Astana on 15 March. "Experts work in accordance with the law." Asked why the four Christian books were banned when local Christians insist they contain nothing that incites hostility or violence in relation to other people of any faith or none, Kalybekova said she was not involved in the case. Warning follows court ban Following the Astana ban on the four Christian books, Internal Policy Departments of District Administrations in at least some parts of the country wrote to local leaders of registered religious organisations to inform them of the 15 February court ban on the four books, according to letters seen by Forum 18. The letter also reminded the religious leaders of two earlier court-ordered bans on Christian books. In November 2012 an Almaty court banned the Russian translation of "Healing the Broken Family of Abraham" by American Protestant Don McCurry. In November 2014 an Akmola Region court banned the Russian translation of "Jesus: More than a Prophet", a collection of essays by 15 Muslims who became Christians, edited by Richard Wootton (see F18News 17 April 2015 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2056). "In the light of the above [the ban on the six named books], we ask you - in the event of the presence of the given extremist materials – to hand them in voluntarily and not to use them in religious activity," declares a 9 March letter (seen by Forum 18) to all local religious leaders from Sultan Zharkynbekov, head of the Internal Policy Department of Ile District of Almaty Region. Zharkynbekov was not available when Forum 18 called on 15 March. However, Department specialist Olzhas (who did not give his last name) said that he had drafted the letter for Zharkynbekov. Asked who religious leaders were supposed to hand in these "extremist" books to, Olzhas responded: "To us. Then we'll hand them on to the competent organs." Despite repeated requests he refused to identify which "competent organs" he had in mind. Olzhas admitted that not one copy of any of these books has been handed in since the letter was sent. "All the leaders came to us and said: we don't have these books," he told Forum 18. He declined to say what would happen to any individual or community which had any of these books. Asked whether banning religious books on such grounds was right, Olzhas responded: "I didn't ban them, the court did." Other warnings Letters outlining the ban on the six named Christian publications are not the only official warnings issued to leaders of registered religious communities. Written warnings from several official agencies of Almaty Region were issued in early 2016 (and seen by Forum 18). On 5 March, the head of Almaty Regional Religious Affairs Department Tanyrbergen Kasymberkebayev wrote to all religious leaders warning them to abide by the Religion Law and not to violate Administrative Code Article 490 (which punishes violations of the Religion Law, such as by talking about your faith to others in public and distribution of religious literature in an unapproved location or which has not undergone the state censorship). Chief Specialist Mukhtar Tundebayev, who drafted the letter on behalf of Kasymberkebayev, said the letter was necessary "because violations of the Religion Law occur". "Some people who violate the law then claim they don't know about it or what it says," he insisted to Forum 18 from Taldykorgan on 15 March. Responding to concerns Forum 18 has heard from religious leaders that such letters characterise religious believers as suspicious and potential law-breakers, Tundebayev dismissed such concerns. "We're simply reminding people of the law. We only write such letters maybe once a year." Tundebayev told Forum 18 that he was not aware of the February court ban on four Christian books. Court challenges to Religious Affairs Committee literature bans fail – as usual Jehovah's Witnesses have repeatedly tried to challenge through the courts Religious Affairs Committee bans on books, brochures or specific issues of their magazines. However, courts repeatedly refuse to hear such challenges, often on procedural grounds. On 25 August 2015, the Religious Affairs Committee in Astana rejected a Jehovah's Witness request to be allowed to import the brochure "Good News From God!" in Uyghur, a language spoken by hundreds of thousands of people in Kazakhstan. On 15 January 2016, Astana's Specialised Interdistrict Economic Court rejected the Jehovah's Witness suit against the Religious Affairs Committee, which had complained that the rejection of the import had been unjustified and violated the right to freedom of religion or belief. On 10 March, Judge Sayran Alimbayeva of Astana City Court rejected the Jehovah's Witnesses' challenge to that refusal to hear the suit, according to the decision seen by Forum 18. On 22 August 2015, the Religious Affairs Committee in Astana rejected Jehovah's Witness requests to be allowed to import Russian translations of the books "What Does the Bible Really Teach?" and "Keep Yourselves in God's Love". On 22 September 2015, the Religious Affairs Committee rejected requests to import the 15 November 2015 issue of "Watchtower" magazine in Kazakh and Russian, and the November 2015 issue of the magazine "Awake!" in Russian. "Experts" appointed by the Religious Affairs Committee had given negative assessments of these works because of "the failure of certain assertions in the imported literature to accord with the norms of Kazakhstan's laws on the health of the nation, as well as the norms of morals and morality accepted in society, in particular the expression in the brochures of the idea of the superiority of the religious teaching of Jehovah's Witnesses to the detriment of other religions". The "experts" claimed this could cause division in families and society and upset people's feelings. On 29 February, Judge Asiya Doshchanova of Astana's Specialised Interdistrict Economic Court rejected the Jehovah's Witness suit against the Religious Affairs Committee, according to the decision seen by Forum 18. Jehovah's Witnesses complained in court that the import bans had violated their Constitutional rights to use the religious literature in their communities. However, the Religious Affairs Committee – represented in court by Kalybekova, as well as by Ainur Chigirova and A. Turtbayev of its Legal Department – denied that the bans violated Jehovah's Witness communities' Constitutional rights. The Judge agreed with the Religious Affairs Committee officials and dismissed the suit. During the court hearing, the Religious Affairs Committee officials took the opportunity to warn Jehovah's Witnesses not to discuss their faith or offer their literature "in locations not approved by law". Kalybekova insisted to Forum 18 that the "expert" analyses and the court had not declared the banned Jehovah's Witness literature "extremist". Asked how the literature could harm anyone, she was unable to say. Asked if it had incited murder, she responded: "No." But she absolutely refused to discuss its content further, referring Forum 18 to the "expert" analyses. Asked for copies of them, she referred Forum 18 to Jehovah's Witnesses themselves. "We shared the decision and reasons for it with them." Chigirova of the Legal Department said that she had no responsibility for the legality of the bans on the import of the literature. "I merely defended the interests of the Religious Affairs Committee in court," she told Forum 18 on 15 March. (END) Source: http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2158

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