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KAZAKHSTAN: Fourteenth known 2014 short-term prison term

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Kazakhstan

(Forum 18) On 18 August, Council of Churches Baptist Nikolai Novikov became the 14th individual known to have been given a short-term prison sentence in Kazakhstan this year for refusing to pay an earlier fine imposed to punish him for refusing to seek state permission to exercise the right to freedom of religion or belief, Forum 18 News Service notes. He served five days in prison in West Kazakhstan Region, a month after a fellow Baptist in East Kazakhstan Region served a ten-day prison term on the same charges.

Meanwhile, a husband and wife are the latest individuals known to have been fined for talking to others about their faith without the compulsory state permission.

Administrative prosecution of members of a Pentecostal church in Pavlodar for unregistered religious activity related to a rehabilitation centre seem likely. The moves appear to be part of a behind-the-scenes official campaign against communities regarded as “non-traditional”, especially
those running social projects, as revealed in a September letter from East Kazakhstan’s deputy regional prosecutor, seen by Forum 18 (see forthcoming Forum 18News article).

In two letters to the United Nations Human Rights Council, Kazakhstan’s government has vigorously rejected any criticism over its punishments for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief. It also justified its restrictions on exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief, claiming they “fully meet international standards of human rights and freedoms” (see below).

Galym Shoikin, Chair of the Culture and Sport Ministry’s Religious Affairs Committee, refused to discuss anything on 8 October. He put the phone down as soon as Forum 18 identified itself. (The Religious Affairs Committee was created in a government reorganization on 6 August which abolished the Agency of Religious Affairs.)

“Offences” and punishments

Typical violations of the harsh 2011 Religion Law which end up in fines are distributing religious literature without the compulsory state licence,
talking to other people about religion without compulsory personal registration as a “missionary”, and meeting with others for worship or other religious purposes without compulsory state registration. More than 150 such fines are known to have been handed down in 2013, and more than 45 in the first ten weeks of 2014 alone (see F18News 13 March 2014 <http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1937>).

Speaking in the capital Astana on 19 September, the head of the presidential Human Rights Commission Kuanish Sultanov put the number of administrative cases to punish individuals for religious activity opened so far in 2014 at 92, with 71 individuals being fined, “Kazakhstanskaya
Pravda” newspaper noted the following day. He put the figure for 2013 at 282 administrative cases, with 199 individuals being fined. The report
gives no indication that Sultanov objects to such punishments.

Punishments are handed down under Article 374-1 and Article 375 of the current Administrative Code, and seem set to continue under the new
Administrative Code, which mostly comes into force on 1 January 2015 (see F18News 21 July 2014 <http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1979>).

Fines are generally 50 or 100 Monthly Financial Indicators (MFIs). Equivalent to about two months’ average wages for those in work, 100 MFIs is currently 185,200 Tenge (6,500 Norwegian Kroner, 800 Euros or 1,000 US Dollars).

The “offences” and punishments under the current Article 374-1 (“Leading, participating in, or financing an unregistered, halted, or banned religious community or social organisation”) have been transferred unchanged into the new Administrative Code’s Article 489, Parts 9, 10 and 11.

The “offences” and punishments under the current Article 375 (“Violating the Religion Law”) have been transferred across to the new Administrative Code’s Article 490. Some penalties have been increased and a new “offence” of “spreading the teachings of a religious group which is not registered in Kazakhstan” added.

Like Sultanov, Kazakhstan’s presidentially-appointed Human Rights Ombudsperson, Askar Shakirov, similarly dismissed the concerns of those
given such administrative punishments. His report for 2013, made public on 3 June 2014, he noted that many of the 34 applications to his Office about freedom of religion or belief violations concerned such punishments. His response to such applications was “to explain the norms of national legislation on religious activity and the necessity of observing them”.

Ten-day imprisonment

Council of Churches Baptist Anatoly Stakhnev served a ten-day prison term in July for refusing to pay a fine of 50 MFIs for his role in a
congregation that refuses to seek state permission to meet for worship, handed down on 31 January under Administrative Code Article 374-1, Part 2 (see F18News 13 March 2014 <http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1937>).

Like the civil disobedience adopted by other Council of Churches Baptists, Stakhnev considered the fine unjust and refused to pay. Court bailiffs
launched proceedings against him on 4 July.

On 11 July, Judge Gibrat Valiyev of Semei Specialised Administrative Court handed down the ten-day prison sentence on Stakhnev, according to the verdict seen by Forum 18. He was given the maximum term under Administrative Code Article 524 (“Failure to carry out court decisions”).

Five-day imprisonment

On 18 August, Judge Botagoz Nurmagambetova of Oral (Uralsk) Specialised Administrative Court in West Kazakhstan Region found Council of Churches Baptist Novikov guilty of violating Administrative Code Article 524. She sentenced him to five days’ imprisonment to start from that afternoon, according to the verdict seen by Forum 18.

Novikov had refused to pay a fine of 50 MFIs handed down by Akzhaik District Court in May 2013. In February 2014, court bailiffs in Oral visited his home and put a restraining order on his car (see F18News 11 November 2013 <http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1895>).

On 18 August, court bailiff Yerkebulan Andakulov drew up a record of an offence under Article 524 and presented the case to court. The record –
seen by Forum 18 – notes that he had taken “forcible measures” against Novikov, including by imposing restraining orders on his property.

Novikov told the 18 August hearing that he would not pay the fine as he did not agree with it. The verdict notes that he had also refused to sign any documents related to the case.

Novikov is also on the Justice Ministry’s exit blacklist for refusing to pay administrative fines. Andakulov, the court bailiff in Oral who had
brought Novikov to court and had him placed on the exit ban list, defended his action. “It was all done according to the law,” he insisted to Forum 18 from Oral on 7 October. “He was fined and didn’t pay.”

Told that Novikov refused to pay because he did not feel it was right that he had been punished for exercising his right to freedom of religion or
belief and asked why he should be punished further by being banned from leaving Kazakhstan, Andakulov responded: “This is not something I can discuss by phone.”

14 short-term prisoners

The 14 individuals known to have been given short-term jail terms so far in 2014 under Article 524 are:

1. Vyacheslav Cherkasov; CC Baptist; 9 January Burabai District Specialised
Administrative Court; 2 days.

2. Zhasulan Alzhanov; CC Baptist; 9 January Burabai District Specialised
Administrative Court; 2 days.

3. Maksim Kandyba; CC Baptist; 20 January Semei Specialised Administrative
Court; 10 days.

4. Pavel Leonov; CC Baptist; 20 January Ayagoz District Court; 3 days.

5. Vitaly Krasilnikov; CC Baptist; 21 January Oskemen Specialised
Administrative Court; 1 day.

6. Aleksandr Pukhov; CC Baptist; 3 March Petropavl Specialised
Administrative Court; 5 days.

7. Vyacheslav Flocha; CC Baptist; 6 March Zhaksy District Court No. 2; 5
days.

8. Sergei Golovanenko; CC Baptist; 18 March Burabai District Court; 2 days.

9. Denis Yenenko; CC Baptist; 17 April Shal-akyn District Court; 6 days.

10. Viktor Kandyba; CC Baptist; 27 May Semei Specialised Administrative
Court; 10 days.

11. Name withheld; Muslim; early July Court name withheld; 5 days.

12. Ramil Nizamov; CC Baptist; 8 July Petropavlovsk Specialised
Administrative Court; 5 days.

13. Anatoly Stakhnev; CC Baptist; 11 July Semei Specialised Administrative
Court; 10 days.

14. Nikolai Novikov; CC Baptist; 18 August Oral Specialised Administrative
Court; 5 days.

In addition, on 12 February Nury District Court found Baptist Sergei Lantsov guilty of violating Administrative Code Article 524. He fined him 2
MFIs.

Reports on freedom of thought, conscience and belief in Kazakhstan can be
found at
<http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?query=&religion=all&country=29>.

For more background, see Forum 18’s Kazakhstan religious freedom survey at
<http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1939>.

For a personal commentary from 2005 on how attacking religious freedom
damages national security in Kazakhstan, see F18News
<http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=564>.

A compilation of Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe
(OSCE) freedom of religion or belief commitments can be found at
<http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1351>.

A printer-friendly map of Kazakhstan is available at
<http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/mapping/outline-map/?map=Kazakhstan>.

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