Police raided at least two Baptist worship meetings on 16 April, Easter Sunday, in the central city of Temirtau and the southern city of Taraz. Officers issued four summary fines totalling about nine months’ wages with no court hearings. According to several Baptists who complained to Forum 18 (a news service publicising threats and actions against religious freedom), such fines for worship meetings are increasing.
In a separate case, a court in the southern city of Almaty has banned a Protestant church from meeting for three months (from April to July). The court also fined them for holding a worship meeting in a place other than its registered address. An Indian citizen associated with the church is also appealing against a fine and deportation order.
An official of Almaty’s Religious Affairs Department, Karshyga Malik, told Forum 18 on 24 April that the administrative cases against the church and the Indian citizen were among 33 it had launched since the beginning of 2017. The cases meant to punish those who meet or distribute religious literature or talk to others about their faith without state permission.
Police raids on congregations of the Council of Baptist Churches are frequent. They choose to meet for worship without seeking state registration. This ‘is their conviction and not a whim’ says Dmitry Yantsen on behalf of the Council.
The Kazakh authorities insist – in defiance of the country’s international human rights obligations – that religious communities must gain state registration before they are allowed to meet. Anyone who defies these restrictions risks raids by police and other state officials. Police and courts have enforced about 20 fines on their community members since the beginning of 2017.
Many of the Council of Baptist Churches have been handed summary fines by police with no court hearing – this power was first given to police in 2015. It is possible to challenge police-imposed fines through the courts or a Prosecutor’s Office but it is a difficult process
Kazakhstan is 43 on the Open Doors 2017 World Watch List…
Source: Forum 18; World Watch Monitor
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