VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED

Category Archives: Asia

IRAN: ‘NINE CHRISTIANS JAILED FOR LEAVING ISLAM’

Photo: BosNewsLife.com

TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)– An Iranian court has sentenced a pastor and eight fellow members of the big evangelical Church of Iran movement to jail for leaving Islam.

Church leader Matthias Haghnejad and the other believers were each sentenced to five years imprisonment after a short hearing on September 23, trial observers confirmed to BosNewsLife.

Pastor Haghnejad was detained by the feared Islamic Revolutionary Guard following a church service in February this year, said advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), which supports the Christians.

The other believers Shahrouz Eslamdoust, Babak Hosseinzadeh, Behnam Akhlaghi, Mehdi Khatibi, Mohammad Vafadar, Kamal Naamanian, Hossein Kadivar (Elisha) and Khalil Dehghanpour were reportedly taken into custody in the coastal city of Rasht in early 2019.

Confirmation about their sentences came days after jailed Church of Iran pastor, Yousef Nadarkhani, ended a three-week hunger strike, according to Christians familiar with his situation.

FATHER’S CRY 

Nadarkhani, who is serving a ten-year prison term for church activities, began his action on September 23 to protest against his children being prohibited from continuing with their education.

He described his hunger strike in a letter to prison authorities as “the cry of a father, unjustly imprisoned.” The pastor stressed that the second-generation Christian children are increasingly penalized by educational authorities who do not recognize their faith.

It was not immediately clear whether Nadarkhani would be able to meet the other jailed Christians. Trial observers said the nine men faced a severe July hearing by Judge Mohammed Moghisheh, who activists claim “is notorious” for miscarriages of justice.

He allegedly attempted to coerce Pastor Haghnejad, Eslamdoust, Hosseinzadeh, Akhlaghi and Khatibi, into accepting a court-appointed legal representative.

The judge eventually suspended the proceedings, remanding them in custody on significantly increased bail terms when they refused to do so, reported CSW. “Judge Moghisheh subsequently resumed the trial of Mr. Vafadar, Mr. Naamanian, Mr. Kadivar (Elisha) and Mr. Dehghanpour, who were representing themselves…during which he asserted that the Bible was falsified and called the men’ apostates’,” the term used for leaving Islam, the group added.

APPEALS EXPECTED

During another hearing last month, the defendants’ lawyer was allowed to speak shortly, Christians said. “However, Judge Mogisheh is reported not to have responded to his statement. A source informed CSW that “it seemed as if the judge had already made his decision,” the group explained.

CSW claimed that the judge “allowed this process as a formality before pronouncing a pre-determined sentence.”

All nine Christians are appealing their sentences, but Pastor Haghnejad and those defended by a lawyer were already jailed, CSW said.

CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas told BosNewsLife that his group condemns “in the strongest terms,” the sentences handed to the Christians. “Once again, it is clear from the brevity of the trial and reported lack of interest of the presiding judge that due process was not observed. And the judge was not impartial,” he added.

“The charges against these Christians are excessive, completely unfounded and constitute a criminalization of a religion which the Iranian constitution purportedly recognizes,” Thomas said.

BROADER CRACKDOWN

He confirmed that CSW called “for the immediate and unconditional release of these nine men,” and all who are behind bars “for their religion or belief in Iran.”

The detentions are part of a broader crackdown on devoted Christians in the Islamic nation, according to several church sources and activists. Apostasy and spreading Christianity often lead to long prison terms and possibly a death sentence in Iran.

Despite these difficulties, mission groups suggest there are at least an estimated 360,000 Christians in the country. They include many former Muslims who turned to Christianity, seeking freedom from strict Islamic rules. Iran’s government-led Statistical Center reports 117,700 Christians in this nation of just over 82 million people.

The U.S. State Department has classified the Islamic Republic as a “country of particular concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 “for having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”

Iranian authorities have denied wrongdoing but say they want to protect the country against dangerous outside influences.

By BosNewsLife Middle East Service with Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife

Video: Hindu Extremists, Police Shut Down Worship Services in Uttar Pradesh

(Morning Star News) – Police broke up a congregational gathering of 6,000 worshipers in northern India on Tuesday (Oct. 15) after Hindu extremists leveled false charges of black magic, arms possession and forcible conversion against the pastor, sources said.

An administrative officer from Bahraich District, Uttar Pradesh, arrived with police in Pandeypurwa village, in Hardi police jurisdiction, announcing that the outdoor venue for the gathering had to be vacated by 8 a.m., said 23-year-old pastor Santosh Jaiswal.

“At least 6,000 were present for prayers, and within minutes the congregation scattered, and the police dismantled the stage and barricades,” Pastor Jaiswal told Morning Star News. “I have received information that I have been booked for insulting religious beliefs and for possessing arms, but I had never spoken about any religions. I don’t possess any weapons.”

The administrative officer, Surendranath Tripathy, and officer Shankar Prasad investigated allegations of forced conversion and found no evidence against Jaiswal, but police ordered him to stop the worship services, the pastor said. He relocated to the area to proclaim Christ among rural villagers on the border with Nepal less than seven months ago, he said.

Pastor Jaiswal said that officers Tripathy and Prasad accused him of performing black magic on Hindus.

“About a week before inspection, a Brahmin [high caste Hindu] journalist came to Sunday worship with cameras,” Pastor Jaiswal said. “He videotaped the congregation lifting up their hands and praying, and some groaning as they were held by evil spirits, and he also interviewed some people who experienced healing. Soon the local news media reported the prayers as black magic rituals, and that a Christian priest is promoting blind belief.”

The police officers parroted the same accusations, he said. Attempts to reach officers Tripathy and Prasad were unsuccessful.

“Some of the members from the congregation came to me and urged me to go into hiding, fearing my arrest,” Pastor Jaiswal said. “I wanted to face the police even if it would lead to my arrest, but I was moved to safety to a believer’s home.”

The First Information Report also names as defendants the pastor’s wife, Kajal Jaiswal, his sister Kunti Devi and a female believer. The open worship venue of about an acre belongs to his sister, who made it available for ministry, he said.

“People suffering from long-term illnesses and those captivated by evil spirits are relieved through prayers,” he said. “We share the gospel with them, and when they put their belief in Christ, they are healed. Only their faith heals them, it is not me. I am nobody to perform any miracles or magic tricks. When a person in pain requests for prayers, all I do is pray for them.”

He was working as a supervisor at a pub in Delhi when he first learned about Christ and developed a strong yearning to boldly proclaim his faith before as many people as possible, he said. He left his job and received training in Haryana state for two years, then returned to his native Pandeypurwa to minister among his own people, he said.

“In March, we were a home church of 12 believers,” Pastor Jaiswal said. “Soon the sick and people in need of prayers came to us. As we prayed, Lord gave them deliverance, and people also came from villages far away. When one receives healing, the entire village, curious to know about Christ, throngs to prayers.”

Within months, hundreds of people increased to thousands, he said.

“Now at least 6,000 people gather for prayers on Sundays as well as on weekdays,” he said.

Village President Ram Sufal Mishra is aware of the services in the village and has never opposed them, he added.

Tricked into Jail

In Lakhimpur Kheri District, Hindu extremists last month surrounded pastor Shibu P. Matthew’s house threatening to attack him for his faith, but when he called police, they arrested him.

Released on bail on Saturday (Oct. 12), Pastor Matthew had cancelled a church service in Musupur, six miles from his home, on Sept. 8 due to a warning of an impending Hindu extremist attack, but a mob of Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council, or VHP) members found his home in Jahanpur and demanded that he come out, he said.

“They were abusing me in filthy language that I convert Hindus to Christianity, and that India is a Hindu country and I should be strictly punished for going against the Indian nation,” Pastor Matthew, 52, told Morning Star News. “Youths from the church had come over, and we thought we could spend the time in singing and worship. Then we heard a loud knock on the door. It was the Hindutva [Hindu nationalist] activists. We did not open doors and locked ourselves inside the house.”

He called Phoolbehar police, who threatened to take the mob into custody and then told the pastor he would need to come to the police station since he had reported them.

“I supposed that I was being summoned to the police station to give a written complaint,” he said. “But it was not so. The Hindu militant leaders were furious, and they levied pressure on police to register cases against me. The police whom I believed had come to my help until a minute ago had now taken their side. They also started accusing me of forced conversions, and that I distribute foreign funds among innocent Hindus and attract them.”

Under pressure from the vice president of the VHP, Shivnarayan Paswan, and his counterparts from the Bajrang Dal, police filed a First Information Report against him that night and presented him before a judge, who sent him to Lakhimpur jail, Pastor Matthew said.

The Hindu extremist leaders persuaded police to confiscate the pastor’s phone, saying it could contain evidence of forced conversions and foreign donations, he said.

Hindu extremists are working in an increasingly organized manner, said the coordinator of legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) in Uttar Pradesh.

“They are mapping even the remotest areas where Christian prayers are held and are targeting one after the other,” said the coordinator, whose name is withheld for security reasons. “In the first phase, it is only threats and warnings through a known person or village council. If these threats are not taken seriously, the strongmen from the militant group [Bajrang Dal] are deployed; they even call the police to their support.”

Local media are also enlisted, spreading biased, sensationalist news that touches off Hindu nationalist sentiment and instigates Hindus against Christians, he said.

“Musapur is a hamlet and it is not well connected to road or transportation – they reached even there, and also shut down five churches in surrounding villages as well,” he said. “Once a church is shut down by the extremists, they set up their informers in that village to collect information if the churches have started functioning again,”

Since March, ADF-Uttar Pradesh has organized more than 70 trainings to advise church leaders on how to exercise their legal rights when under attack by police and Hindu extremists, he said.

“As many as 100 pastors attend each training camp, and they have been informed of their rights and strategies that can be adapted to deal with police and authorities at the time of the attack or arrests,” he said. “We are connected with victims from across the state via the toll-free helpline, 1-800-208-4545, and smaller teams have also been built in almost all the districts, working like a rapid action force to come to victims’ aid upon receiving information about attacks or arrests.”

Originally from Thiruvalla in southern India’s Kerala state, Pastor Matthew had moved with his family to Uttar Pradesh following a divine call after he underwent heart bypass surgery, he said.

“After the surgery, we sold off whatever was left in Kerala and moved to Uttar Pradesh, because God had put this zeal in my heart that we should minister among people who had never known or heard about Christ,” he said.

Police Seal Off Worship Venue

In Varanasi District, another pastor has moved to three villages in the past three years due to pressure from Hindu extremists to stop worship services.

Pastor Dasarath Pawar of Evangelical Churches of India told Morning Star News that the congregation has scattered since their latest move from Madhuban Lawn to New Colony.

“We only gathered in the evenings in Madhuban Lawn, and their accusations were that we are converting Hindus to Christians, and that they had warned me several times before but I had continued the prayers,” he said. “On Sept. 8, a batch of 25 strongmen of Hindu Yuva Vahini threatened us that the attack would be brutal if we don’t obey this time. The church property has been sealed by police, and they are not allowing us there.”

Christian Family in Hiding after Hindu Extremist Mob Assaults Them in India

Hindu extremists severely attack retired pastor and his family in northern India. Photo: Morning Star News

(Morning Star News) – A retired pastor, his wife and their sons are in hiding from police after a Hindu extremist mob injured them in a gruesome assault in northern India, sources said.

Patram Mangala, retired Church of North India pastor now helping to run St. John School in Sohna, Gurugram District in Haryana state, sustained injuries to his nose when he was hit with a spade in the face, and his 28-year-old son Abhishek Mangala lost four front teeth and ruptured blood vessels in his eye in the Sept. 22 attack.

Pastor Mangala’s 65-year-old wife Sarla Mangala sustained an injury under her right eye apart from internal injuries to her body, and their son Raj Kumar Mangala, 40, sustained internal injuries in the attack, which appeared to be rooted in a recent court judgment against the Hindus in their attempt to erect a Hindu idol on the property, the retired pastor said.

The 68-year-old Pastor Mangala and his wife were cleaning their front yard in the early evening when a group of Hindu extremists with wooden sticks surrounded them and began to assault them, he said. Between 30 to 40 other people then joined in the assault.

Pastor Mangala’s sons ran to help their parents but were also attacked. The pastor said he could identify only some of the assailants, and that those who joined in had been notified earlier for a well-planned attack.

Abhishek Mangala lost teeth in assault by Hindu extremists in Sohna, Haryana state, India on Sept. 22, 2019. (Morning Star News)

“Two men, Anil Kumar and Danny, smashed a stone on Abhishek’s face, breaking four of his front teeth,” Pastor Mangala told Morning Star News. “His mouth was profusely bleeding, and his face was covered with blood. Abhishek’s lip tore, and his left eye blood vessels ruptured.”

Their home is part of the St. John’s school premises, and the assailants picked up a spade used for repair work on the institution in the attack, he said. They also struck them with rocks lying outside the gate, along with sticks.

“They began to hit me with their legs and fists and manhandled my wife by pushing her and hitting her,” he said. “They abused us using vulgar language and threatened to kill us. The attackers snatched the gold ring that I was wearing in my finger and snatched my son Abhishek’s cell phone as well.”

Besides the injury to his nose from the spade, Pastor Mangala sustained injuries to his thigh and other parts of his body, he said.

The family reported the assault to city police in writing on Sept. 24, but officers registered no complaint for nearly a week – in stark contrast to a false complaint registered against the Christians the day of the attack, he said.

“The culprits have been threatening us to kill us, and they have warned us that if we go to the police, they will kill us,” Pastor Mangala reported in his complaint, translated from Hindi. “In the future if I or my family members are attacked, these people named in the complaint should be held responsible. I request that strict action be taken against these hooligans and a First Information Report be registered and they be arrested. I pray that justice be given to me and my family.”

Local news media broadcast the Hindu extremists’ false charges as stated by a police official and the main accused in the pastor’s complaint, Anil Kumar. Officer-in-Charge Arvind Dahiya told Punjab Kesari News Channel that an FIR had been registered against Pastor Mangala, his wife and their two sons for “breaking the Hindu temple and illegally trying to take possession of the Hindu temple land under the Indian Penal Code.”

They were also charged with rioting, being armed with a deadly weapon, unlawful assembly, disobedience to an order lawfully promulgated by a public servant, injuring or defiling a place of worship with intent to insult the religion, voluntarily causing hurt and criminal intimidation, he said.

Kumar told media that the Christian family attacked him and the others.

Denying all allegations, Meenal Mangala, the daughter of Pastor Mangala, told Morning Star News that she felt helpless as she does not know who to contact for help.

“The allegations against us are false and fabricated,” she said. “We don’t know what to do. It is our property, and we have the papers to prove it. They forcefully wanted to worship their god on our land. Through court we stopped that and won the legal battle, but now they are spreading a false and fabricated story through media, and it is being telecasted on local TV.”

Meenal Mangala said the family has submitted a CD to the police containing footage from CCTV cameras installed at the school facing its front gate. The cameras captured the entire assault and show how the Hindu extremists beat the family, she said.

Fearing arrest, the Christian family has left their home and gone into hiding since being released from the hospital.

Only after Morning Star News spoke to Investigating Officer and Assistant Sub-Inspector Shish Ram asking why no action was taken on the complaint of trespassing and assault filed by the Christian family did officers register a case against the assailants on Friday (Sep. 27).

Ram said a case was registered against the Hindu assailants under First Information Report 608 for rioting, rioting armed with deadly weapon, unlawful assembly, disobedience to an order lawfully promulgated by a public servant, voluntarily causing hurt and criminal intimidation.

He said justice would be done, though no action has been taken yet.

The land on which the St. John’s School was built was purchased in Sarla Mangala’s name on Sept. 30, 1985, according to official records. She and Pastor Mangala were running the school and residence in 2015 when some Hindus trespassed and erected a Hindu idol and brought construction material onto the campus, Sarla Mangala charges in a lawsuit.

“On June 10, 2015, in the evening between 6-6:30, some anti-social elements came to our land and tried to enter forcefully,” Pastor Mangala said. “They threatened to kill my wife if she did not leave the property, hence we filed a complaint in the court claiming that the property is ours and that no construction should be done on that land. I approached the court against the trespassing four years ago and got a stay from the court. The court pronounced judgment in our favor two months ago.”

Tehmina Arora, director of legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom-India, said in a press statement earlier this year that India must enact laws to protect religious minorities from such attacks.

“Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith,” Arora said. “It is worrying to see these horrendous acts of mob violence continue. It is high time special laws are enacted to protect Christians and other religious minorities from being attacked and then imprisoned under false accusations.”

Mob attacks are not isolated incidents in India, added Paul Coleman, executive director of ADF-International.

“While the right to religious freedom is protected by the Indian constitution, we nonetheless see Christians face persecution and denial of their fundamental rights,” he said. “Sadly, the recent mob attacks are not isolated incidents but testify to what many Christians experience in India today. All people have the right to freely choose, and live out, their faith.”

India is ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The country was 31st in 2013, but its position has been worse each year since Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.

Photo: Retired pastor’s wife, Sarla Mangala and son, Abhishek Mangala

EU Envoy’s threat of trade sanctions played crucial role in Asia Bibi’s freedom

EU Envoy on religious freedom, Jan Figel, meets with Asia Bibi’s lawyer Saif ul Malook in Lahore, December 2017. (Photo: Jan Figel)

World Watch Monitor—Freed Pakistani Christian Aasiya Noreen, known to the world now as Asia Bibi, has pleaded for the many others like her accused of blasphemy who, she says, are still “lying in jail for years – their decisions should also be done on merit. The world should listen to them.

“The way any person is alleged (to have committed) blasphemy without any proper investigation, without any proper proof, that should be noticed. This blasphemy law should be reviewed and there should be proper investigation mechanisms while applying this law. We should not consider anyone sinful for this act without any proof.”

She made this appeal from her refuge in Canada through a series of answers she provided to the UK’s Sunday Telegraph.

Shortly afterward, the European Post released a video that it says was provided by Noreen, in which she speaks in her native Urdu about her faith and urges fair treatment for anyone accused of a crime.

It’s hard to get a specific tally of the numbers known to be imprisoned, either awaiting trial -sometimes for years – for blasphemy, or already convicted. Many are Muslims. One figure World Watch Monitor saw quoted but could not get confirmed, after Asia Bibi was finally freed in May, was that Christians make up 17 of the 40 current ‘blasphemy’ prisoners. Christians form around 2% of Pakistan’s total population according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, its Co-Director Gina Zurlo told World Watch Monitor.

One couple who hit the spotlight immediately after Asia Bibi’s acquittal was Shafqat Emmanuel and his wife, Shaguftah, of Gojra, Punjab, both accused of sending blasphemous text messages. Shafqat has to use a wheelchair and has a catheter, after his backbone was fractured in an accident in 2004. Shaguftah was the main breadwinner for their four children.

Lawyer Saif ul-Malook, who – at the risk of his own life – defended Asia Bibi and successfully argued her appeal in Pakistan’s Supreme court, then promptly left Pakistan for the Netherlands (he was reported to have said that he was forced to flee) but said that he would return if her successful appeal was challenged. At the same time, he said he would now take up Shafqat and Shagfuftah’s case.

‘Justice and dignity for all Pakistanis’

The Sunday Telegraph article also referred to the crucial role for Asia Bibi’s freedom played by the EU Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB), Jan Figel, from Slovakia, who’s worked tirelessly on her case, as well as for prisoners in Sudan and other countries.

He told World Watch Monitor that he had tried to visit Pakistan in his new role ‘from the start’ but that it had taken a year until a Pakistani high-level delegation (Minister of Trade and Attorney General) had visited his Brussels office. They invited him to Pakistan.

(In May 2018 Pakistan’s then-Minister for Interior, Ahsan Iqbal, who is known to support minority groups, survived an assassination after meeting with a group of Christians. Seven years earlier both the then-Governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, and the Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti were targeted and killed for defending Asia Bibi). That particular Islamist network has many members outside Pakistan.

Following her acquittal Asia Bibi was detained for another seven months. Mr. Figel told the Sunday Telegraph “I think Imran Khan’s government and Pakistan’s military used this delay to get the situation in the country under real control.”

In December Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau publicly announced willingness to offer asylum at the Peace Centennial of World War I.

In January, in Pakistan’s capital, the “Islamabad Declaration” signed by over 500 Muslim clerics, publicly condemned terrorism, violence committed in the name of religion and fatwas (sacred edicts) widespread by radical Islamic leaders. Fides reported that “observers said it represents a turning point especially in the attitude towards religious minorities and sects such as Ahmadi Muslims. In fact, Fides wrote, ‘the Declaration recognizes that Pakistan is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country, and notes that “it is the responsibility of the government to ensure the protection of the life of non-Muslim citizens in Pakistan”’.

In February, Pakistan’s Attorney-General again visited Brussels where he again met Jan Figel; the latter tweeted that he raised the fact that Asia Bibi, now freed by the Supreme Court, was still detained in effective ‘house arrest’.

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Pakistan’s Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari also visited Brussels. Figel liaised with Asia Bibi herself via Muhammad Amanullah, a human rights activist.

The EU Envoy confirmed directly to World Watch Monitor that the UK was not on the list of possible countries for her asylum, but that ‘there were a lot of rumours and problems around this’.

Asia Bibi was announced to have finally left Pakistan on 8 May, although it was not clear for a few days whether she had in fact joined her daughters who were already in exile in Canada.

Figel told WWM “Canada deserves international acknowledgement for its spirit of solidarity and real hospitality, also for the professionalism of its diplomacy and its immigration services. Security conditions are crucially important for Asia Bibi and her family”.

On June 25, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, signed the Fourth EU-Pakistan Strategic Engagement Plan (SEP) with the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini in Brussels.

Amongst points relevant to Asia Bibi’s plight were to “Develop mutually agreed co-operation on the implementation of the UN Security Council on Women, Peace and Security”, and (under ‘Democracy, Rule of Law, Good governance, and Human Rights’) the plan mentioned “Working together to ensure…protection of human rights at national and international levels” and “Enhancing…inter-faith dialogue and understanding to promote tolerance and harmony”.

EU Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief – role

Jan Figel, a former EU education and culture commissioner, was appointed in May 2016 when the post was created by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Twice extended for an additional year, Figel’s current mandate ends next month.

A report by Polish MEP Andrzej Grzyb, accepted by the European Parliament, but yet to be formally implemented, argued that Figel had “developed effective working networks” within the EU institutions and praised him for “continuous engagement and co-operation and complementarity of actions with the EU Special Representative for Human Rights”.

It also recommended that the Special Envoy’s role needs to be substantially reinforced, and that his new remit should include extending his term to match that of Commission’s five-year term, and “consolidated with sufficient human and financial resources”.

Figel does not currently have a budget and formal status in the EU institutions, beyond serving as a special advisor to the EU’s Development Commissioner. His staffing budget covers minimal assistance, less than the German government’s Commissioner for Global Freedom of Religion.

Campaigners also argue that freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) is not given the importance it deserves in the EU institutions.

The MEPs’ report also recommends the setting up of a “regular advisory working group of member states’ FoRB institutions and European Parliament representatives, together with experts, scholars, and representatives of civil society, including churches and other faith-based organisations”.

After the US, Canada was among the first countries to appoint a Special Envoy who could focus on the issue of Freedom of Religion or Belief, Andrew Bennett, although his role per se did not last into Justin Trudeau’s government. Since then, the UK has appointed Lord Ahmad to the first-ever UK FoRB role, the need for which has recently been highlighted by the Bishop of Truro’s independent review into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s response to the persecution of Christians globally.

This summer, the Netherlands has appointed its own Ambassador with an emphasis on FoRB, Jos Douma, a former Ambassador to both Iran and the Holy See.

Illegally Detained Christian Tortured to Death in Custody in Pakistan, Family Says

Pakistan (Morning Star News) – Police in Lahore, Pakistan tortured to death the Christian father of 14-day-old and 7-year-old sons, relatives said.

Officers on Aug. 28 illegally detained 28-year-old Amir Masih on a false charge of theft and tortured him for four days before he died in a hospital on Sept. 2, his brother Sunny Masih told Morning Star News.

Interrogating officers in the 96-percent Muslim country “urinated on Amir’s face and body and mocked his Christian faith” while trying to torture him into a false confession, Masih said.

After filing an application with police on Aug. 31 alleging forced disappearance of Amir Masih, a member of the Church of Pakistan, relatives were informed that he had been taken into custody by a sub-inspector identified only as Zeeshan in connection with a theft case. Their repeated attempts to meet Sub-Inspector Zeeshan were blocked. They did know of Amir Masih’s whereabouts until an officer phoned Sunny Masih on Sept. 2 to tell him that his brother was not well and that they should come and take him to the hospital, Masih said.

“We rushed to the police station, where we were handed a semi-conscious Amir,” he said. “He was beaten up mercilessly, and his body was full of bruises. While we were taking him to the hospital, Amir told us that Inspector Nasir Baig, Sub-Inspector Zeeshan and four unidentified constables had tortured him continuously for four days.”

Sunny Masih said that while police released without a scratch all other employees who worked with Amir Masih, a gardener, after they were summoned about the alleged theft, his brother was subjected to severe torture because he was a poor Christian whom police believed could be coerced into a false confession.

“He told us that the police officials had urinated on him while cursing him for being a Christian and tried to force him to confess to the crime,” he said. “But my brother was innocent, and he refused to admit to something that he had not done, which further infuriated his interrogators. They increased the intensity of the violence, also subjecting him to electric shocks.”

Doctors at Services Hospital tried to save his life, but he succumbed to his injuries after a couple of hours, Masih said.

Working as a gardener in PAF Colony, Amir Masih was summoned to North Cantt Police Station in a phone call from Zeeshan regarding a theft case registered by his employer, Rana Mohammad Hanif, Masih said.

“Amir was present at Hanif’s house when he received the inspector’s call,” he said. “The watchman of the house told him that all employees had been summoned by the police to record their statements, and he should do the same. My brother went to the police station of his own will, but when he reached there the cops seized his phone, bundled him into a vehicle and spirited him to some unknown place.”

When he did not return home that evening, Sunny Masih and other relatives went out to search for him, he said.

“When I reached Hanif’s house to inquire about Amir, the watchman told me that he had been summoned by Sub-Inspector Zeeshan to record his statement,” he said. “For the next two days, we continued to search for both Amir and the police officer but failed to find any trace of their whereabouts.”

Autopsy

A post-mortem report on the death states that torture marks were visible on his hands, feet, back and arms. His ribs were also broken.

After news of the killing in custody spread on mainstream and social media and drew public ire, Punjab Inspector General of Police Captain Arif Nawaz Khan ordered registration of a case against Inspector Nasir Baig, Zeeshan and four other police officers and ordered a detailed report on the case.

Police have taken Baig and Zeeshan into custody, but the four other officers accused are still at large as no serious efforts have been made to arrest them, Masih said. Police at the same station where his brother was tortured registered his complaint for murder, illegal detention and torture.

Both Punjab Minister for Minorities and Human Rights Aijaz Alam Augustine and Shunila Ruth, a member of the National Assembly, said that they were making efforts to ensure justice for the grieving family of Amir Masih. Both officials are Christians.

Augustine said that he had visited the family and was in contact with police officials to ensure arrest of the absconding accused.

“This is a grave crime, and the accused police officers will be severely punished,” Augustine said, adding that the government would not show any leniency in cases of torture and custodial killings.

Ruth, who visited the victim’s family along with Punjab Gov. Muhammad Sarwar, said she would raise the matter in the National Assembly.

“The family’s claim that Amir was subjected to torture because of his Christian faith is not unfounded,” she said. “Unfortunately, there are segments in our society who continue to be prejudicial towards members of the marginalized communities.”

The two Christian officials said they believe they’ll be able to bring the perpetrators to justice, but attorney Saiful Malook, who gained fame for securing freedom for high-profile Christian blasphemy convict Aasiya Noreen (commonly known as Asia Bibi), said he feared the case would be swept under the carpet after the media hype dies because “police are known to protect their own.”

“Amir Masih’s murder in police custody is not only a serious crime but also a severe violation of the constitution,” he said. “Therefore, it should be taken up very seriously, and the police alone should not be trusted in this regard.”

Malook said that the First Information Report of the case also should have included the names of the deputy superintendent of police of the zone and the station house officer, as they were the supervisory officers and it was their responsibility to ensure that no citizen was subjected to illegal detention and torture.

“I’m sure the police misguided the complainant into naming only the six accused in order to save their seniors,” he said. “I am ready to provide pro-bono legal assistance to Amir Masih’s family, because I believe that they deserve justice on merit.”

Pakistan ranked fifth on Christian support organization Open Doors 2019 World Watch list of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, and on Nov. 28, 2018, the United States added Pakistan to its blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom.

176 children lost one or both parents in Sri Lanka Easter bombings

(World Watch Monitor) At least 176 children lost either one or both of their parents in the Sri Lanka Easter Sunday bombings, according to the Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith.

Just over three months ago, at St. Anthony’s Shrine in the country’s capital saw a powerful explosion rip apart the bodies of worshippers. The shrine has already been rebuilt, but its congregation could not hold back their tears as they met for a packed Sunday service on the three month anniversary, July 21 – although not all survivors were yet emotionally ready to return to the parish.

Of the more than 250 people who died in the bombings in three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka, 54 were from St. Anthony’s, announced the priest, Fr. Jude Fernando during the service, as armed military personnel guarded the church and frisked all visitors. At least 106 worshippers were wounded in the explosion, he added.

Riswani, a mother of two and a convert from Islam, still cannot hear in one ear, which was wounded in the bombing. She was attending Easter service with her seven-month-old daughter, Athara. When her husband, Michel Thass, arrived – delayed as their five-year-old son wanted to sleep for longer – he found his wife lying on the floor, covered with pieces of flesh and blood from other victims. Baby Athara was found lying at a distance, her intestines hanging out of her stomach.

Athara, who’s had to undergo three surgeries, has recovered, but her mother is still in a state of shock, Thass told Vishal Arora in this film for World Watch Monitor.

Like Athara, dozens of children were seriously injured, and dozens of others died.

Islamist extremists bombed three churches, including St. Sebastian’s in Negombo (outside Colombo, close to the international airport) and the evangelical Zion Church in the city of Batticaloa in the Eastern Province, several hundred miles from the capital.

On July 21, St. Sebastian’s held their first service since the terror attacks.

In Batticaloa, some injured victims remain hospitalised, some still unaware that their children or spouses have succumbed to injuries, Raghu Balachandran from the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka said.

Helping victims and survivors deal with their emotional trauma is the biggest need at the moment, but there are few Christian counsellors available, he added.

Foreign Christians Arrested on Charges of ‘Converting’ in Nepal

(Morning Star News) – A Christian from South Korea arrested in Nepal on charges of “attempting to convert” was released on bail on Wednesday (Aug. 7), sources said.

Cho Yusang, a 73-year-old evangelical Christian, posted bail of 150,000 Nepalese rupees (US$1,330) after being arrested on July 23. His health deteriorated after he was incarcerated, and he had been hospitalized, said Tanka Subedi, chair of the Religious Liberty Forum Nepal (RLFN).

On Monday (Aug. 5), Subedi told Morning Star News that Cho had been released from hospital care.

“Though he was out of hospital, he was feeling dizzy this morning also,” Subedi said. “His health is still not good. He does not want to go back to the hospital, because he does not have much money left. He does not have insurance cover to pay his bills.”

In Nepal on a business visa, Cho was also charged with misuse of visa.

The charge of “attempting to convert” under Section 158 (1) of the Nepal Penal Code of 2017 calls for as much five years in jail and/or a fine of up to 50,000 Nepalese Rupees (US$445), according to Subedi.

Cho and two other foreigners working separately from him were found involved in conversion activity in Pokhara, in central Nepal, Raj Kumar KC, spokesperson of the District Police Office in Kaski, reportedly said.

Police arrested Cho for allegedly distributing leaflets and Bibles in the Barachi area of Kaski District, in Gandaki Pradesh Province, KC told the Kathmandu, Nepal-based news outlet Republica. The police spokesman said officers also arrested two Japanese nationals, Jehova’s Witnesses unaffiliated with Cho, in the Ratna area of the same district on the same charges.

KC reportedly said their arrest shows that “some foreigners do not come with good intentions,” and that they would be charged with proselytizing.

B.P. Khanal, national coordinator of Nepal for the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief [IPPFoRB], told Morning Star News that after arresting Cho from his lakeside lodging, police raided his room and confiscated some Bibles and Christian literature.

Khanal, who is responsible for inter-faith relations for the Nepal Christian Society, said possession of a Bible and Christian literature is not evidence of a crime.

“In this case the law is discriminatory, because it is not an offense to have Bibles in your room,” Khanal told Morning Star News. “The recovery of some Bibles and Christian literature from Yusang’s personal belongings is projected as an offense and as a crime Yusang committed. Anybody can have a Bible – it is not a drug or an explosive. Carrying a Bible should not be and must not be a criminal offense.”

The Nepal Christian Society has hired an attorney for Cho, he said.

U.S. Citizen Charged

Earlier, in Basgadhi of Bardiya District, police on June 21 arrested U.S. citizen Bradley Navarro Anagaran on a charge of possessing Christian literature, according to the RLFN.

When local pastor Hira Singh Sunar went to the police station to inquire about his arrest, officers arrested him as well, according to an RLFN statement. Both Anagaran and Pastor Sunar were charged with “attempting to convert,” it stated.

Anagaran was found with two discipleship leaflets designed for use within a church circle, Christian sources said.

“Apart from the literature on discipleship, police have confiscated a few pairs of reading glasses from his backpack, which means that the police did not find him distributing the literature to anybody,” Khanal of the IPPFoRB said.

The two Christians were moved from district headquarters of Gulariya to Bansgadhi police station. They were released on bail on July 3, and Anagaran has returned to the United States, but he must return for a hearing at the end of this month and every court date thereafter, Subedi of the RLFN said.

“I personally don’t know how he will be able to do that, as it is a great financial burden to travel every time for his court date from the United States to Nepal,” Subedi told Morning Star News. “The court procedures in Nepal take several years and are tiresome.”

A team from the Nepal Christian Society in Kathmandu, including Khanal, went to speak with local officials.

“We met with about 60 local pastors and mobilized prayer, as well as formed a task force,” Khanal said. “We met Bradley and Sunar inside the jail and comforted them. We met the police inspector who arrested Bradley, the deputy superintendent of police, chief district officer and the prosecuting attorney to discuss how the charges in the case could be minimized, for there was no ‘conversion attempt’ in the case at all.”

After the initial order for a week’s remand ended, police kept them in custody while extending the investigation for no apparent reason, sources said.

“Both Bradley and Sunar were being kept in a miserable condition while in custody,” read an RLFN newsletter. “They were treated as criminals even though they had not committed any crime.”

The Rev. Mukunda Sharma, spokesperson of the RLFN, was a part of the team visiting the duo in jail. He urged human rights and diplomatic officials to support them.

Khanal issued a plea for foreigners visiting Nepal to refrain from doing anything that will land them in legal trouble. He said that sharing the gospel where there are already local churches should not be taken up by Christians from other countries.

“Their role can be to inspire, educate and train local churches if they really want the bring the gospel to the people,” he said. “Let the local church in their local language share the gospel.”

As the Nepal Christian Society is taking up an increasing number of legal cases, he asked that the international Christian community pray for those accused under Nepal’s new criminal code.

An increase in persecution of Christians in Nepal began after a new criminal code was passed in October 2017, which took effect in August 2018.

Targeting Christians

Pastor Sagar Baiju, a senior Christian leader in the country, said that such incidents make it clear that government officials, police and politicians are targeting Christians.

“Unless this new law is revoked, such incidents will continue to increase in Nepal,” Baiju told Morning Star News. “When I travel to foreign counties, I carry my identity with me – and my identity is that I am a Nepali, but apart from being a Nepali, I am a Christian, so I always carry my Bible with me. How is it a crime, when foreign tourists come to Nepal to tour the country or to visit their friends and carry their Bible in their hands?”

People of other religions erect huge tents, gather in large numbers and use loud sound systems for worship, and the lawmakers do not question them, he said.

“All the schools in Nepal have their morning devotions according to the faith that the school authorities follow,” he said. “In schools run by Hindus, they make the children perform Saraswati Vandana [a common Hindu mantra] in their morning devotion, and nobody objects to it. Then why is it a crime, if a Christian school makes the children say The Lord’s Prayer in the assembly? Why are objections raised and Christians ghettoized as criminals?”

There is a need for Christians to unite and raise the issue with a single voice, he said.

“A hospital owned by a Hindu has a big Hindu temple inside the premises,” he said. “They are free to write Hindu scriptures on the walls of the hospital and nobody objects. But if a Christian hospital has a Bible inside the hospital or a Bible verse hung on any wall, we are accused of preaching our religion, and the authorities running the hospital are in trouble.”

Nepal was ranked 32nd on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

KAZAKHSTAN: 104 administrative prosecutions in January-June 2019 – list

By Felix Corley, Forum 18—Administrative prosecutions to punish exercising freedom of religion or belief appear to be rising. At least 104 cases were brought between January and June to punish unapproved worship, sharing faith, selling religious literature and items in shops or online, or using “Amen” in mosque worship. In three cases, courts ordered seized religious literature to be destroyed.

Kazakhstan’s authorities are known to have brought at least 104 administrative prosecutions in the first six months of 2019 to punish 102 individuals, one religious community and one company for their exercise of freedom of religion or belief. Of these, 92 ended with convictions, with 86 individuals and one company being fined.
The 104 administrative cases in the first six months of 2019 represent an increase in the rate of prosecutions. In the whole of 2018, 169 such prosecutions are known to have been brought.

Punishments included not only fines but temporary bans on activity, a permanent ban on a meeting place for worship, and seizures and destruction of religious literature, according to a review of the known January to June 2019 cases compiled by Forum 18 (see full list below).

Muslims, Protestants (especially Council of Churches Baptists), Jehovah’s Witnesses, and commercial and private sellers were many of the targets of these prosecutions.

Fines were the equivalent of between three weeks’ and four months’ average wages for those in formal work (35 to 200 Monthly Financial Indicators, MFIs, 88,375 Tenge to 505,000 Tenge in 2019).

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

In three cases, courts ordered seized religious literature to be destroyed: 29 Muslim books seized from a commercial seller in Kyzylorda; 18 Islamic books seized from another commercial seller also in Kyzylorda; and 2 Islamic books a visitor from Kyrgyzstan had in her luggage.

Administrative prosecutions are known to have been brought in January to June 2019 (with comparisons to the full 2018 and 2017calendar years) to punish:

– 28 (26 individuals, 1 community and 1 company) for meeting for worship, hosting such meetings or maintaining places for such meetings (39 in 2018, 88 in 2017).

– 7 individuals for offering religious literature to others for free (10 in 2018, 39 in 2017).

– 22 individuals for offering religious literature, icons or other items for sale (33 in 2018, 58 in 2017).

– 20 individuals for offering religious items for sale online (18 in 2018, 10 in 2017).

– 16 individuals for posting religious materials online (23 in 2018, 12 in 2017).

– 2 individuals for trying to import religious literature (0 in 2018, 4 in 2017).

– 3 individuals for sharing faith with others (17 in 2018, 31 in 2017).

– 4 Muslims for praying in mosques in ways that the state-controlled Muslim Board has banned, for example by using the word “Amen” (21 in 2018, 22 in 2017, the first year such punishments were imposed).

– 2 individuals for teaching their faith (3 in 2018, 2 in 2017).

No religious leaders are known to have been prosecuted for allowing children to be present or conducting religious rites against the wishes of one parent (1 in 2018, 9 in 2017).

No religious communities are known to have been prosecuted for “inadequate” security or security measures for their places of worship, for example not having enough video cameras (2 in 2018, 5 in 2017).

No individuals are known to have been prosecuted for failing to pay earlier fines to punish them for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief (2 in 2018, 2 in 2017).

No foreign citizens are known to have been ordered deported (1 in 2018, 2 in 2017).

A total of 88 of the 104 January to June 2019 cases were heard in court, but 16 fines are known to have been summarily handed down by police (the total number could be higher). All the known police fines were in Karaganda, Kyzylorda or Taraz.

Of the 102 administrative cases known to have been brought against individuals in 2019, 68 were against men and 34 against women. Women represented more than half of individuals prosecuted to punish offering religious literature and other items for sale in shops and online.

Of the 102 known administrative prosecutions against individuals in 2019, at least 3 began as cases under Criminal Code Article 174 (“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 administrative cases in these 3 cases were launched when prosecutors decided not to pursue the Criminal Code Article 174 cases.

Full list of known January to June 2019 administrative prosecutions

The list of 103 known January to June 2019 administrative prosecutions below is based on court decisions and other information reaching Forum 18. It includes the date of initial decision by lower court/police, name of defendant, affiliation, court/police issuing decision, Administrative Code Article, reason for prosecution, outcome:

– Punishing unapproved meetings, rituals

Known administrative cases: 28
Known convictions: 22
200 MFI fines (4 months’ average wage): 1
100 MFI fines (2 months’ average wage): 4
70 MFI fines (6 weeks’ average wage): 1
50 MFI fines (1 month’s average wage): 13
35 MFI fines (3 weeks’ average wage): 2
Verbal warning: 1
3-month bans: 2
Permanent bans: 1

Muslims: 5
Protestants: 18 (all Council of Churches Baptists)
Jehovah’s Witnesses: 3
Hare Krishna community: 1
Companies: 1

Article 489, Part 9 punishes “Leadership of an unregistered, halted, or banned religious community or social organisation” with a fine of 100 MFIs.

Article 489, Part 10 punishes “Participation in an unregistered, halted, or banned religious community or social organisation” with a fine of 50 MFIs.

Article 490, Part 1, Point 1 punishes “violation of procedures established in law for conducting rites, ceremonies and meetings”. Punishment for individuals is a fine of 50 MFIs, and for organisations a fine of 200 MFIs and a three-month ban on activity.

Article 490, Part 1, Point 3 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 MFIs.

Article 490, Part 1, Point 4 punishes: “Violating the requirements of the Religion Law for .. building places of worship (facilities), or changing the usage (altering the functional designation) of buildings (facilities) into ritual buildings (facilities)”. The punishment for individuals is a fine of 50 MFIs.

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.

1) 5 January 2019, Bakyt Sattarova, Protestant, Karaganda Police, Article 489, Part 10, meeting in home, 50 MFI fine (reduced to 35 MFI fine on second appeal)

2) 5 January 2019, Aleksandr Shartner, Protestant, Karaganda Police, Article 489, Part 10, meeting in home, 50 MFI fine

3) 5 January 2019, Sergei Bogovenko, Protestant, Karaganda Police, Article 489, Part 10, meeting in home, 50 MFI fine

4) 5 January 2019, Aleksei Bykov, Protestant, Karaganda Police, Article 489, Part 10, meeting in home, 50 MFI fine

5) 5 January 2019, Olga Shartner, Protestant, Karaganda Police, Article 489, Part 10, meeting in home, 50 MFI fine (overturned on appeal)

6) 5 January 2019, Nadezhda Bogovenko, Protestant, Karaganda Police, Article 489, Part 10, meeting in home, 50 MFI fine (overturned on appeal)

7) 5 January 2019, Larisa Chachanidze, Protestant, Karaganda Police, Article 489, Part 10, meeting in home, 50 MFI fine (overturned on appeal)

8) 30 January 2019, Vera Pastukhova, Council of Churches Baptist, Kyzylorda police, Article 489, Part 10, participating in unregistered meeting for worship, 50 MFI fine

9) 30 January 2019, Aleksandr Belyayev, Council of Churches Baptist, Kyzylorda police, Article 489, Part 9, leading unregistered meeting for worship, 100 MFI fine

10) 31 January 2019, Aleksei Li, Council of Churches Baptist, Kyzylorda police, Article 489, Part 10, participating in unregistered meeting for worship, 50 MFI fine

11) 15 February 2019, Yakov Fot, Council of Churches Baptist, Taraz police, Article 489, Part 9, leading unregistered meeting for worship, 100 MFI fine

12) 15 February 2019, Viktor Fot, Council of Churches Baptist, Taraz police, Article 489, Part 10, participating in unregistered meeting for worship, 50 MFI fine (changed on appeal to verbal warning)

13) 16 February 2019, Valery Skorobogaty, Council of Churches Baptist, Kyzylorda police, Article 489, Part 10, participating in unregistered meeting for worship, 50 MFI fine

14) 28 February 2019, Eduard Neifeld, Council of Churches Baptist, Almaty Specialised Inter-District Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 3 (Article 490, Part 1, Point 1 excluded), participating in unregistered meeting for worship, 100 MFI fine

15) 3 March 2019, Vitaly Ryzhkov, Council of Churches Baptist, Taraz police, Article 489, Part 10, participating in unregistered meeting for worship, 50 MFI fine

16) 3 March 2019, Yuliya Ivanova, Council of Churches Baptist, Taraz police, Article 489, Part 10, participating in unregistered meeting for worship, 50 MFI fine

17) 3 March 2019, Petr Skornyakov, Council of Churches Baptist, Taraz police, Article 489, Part 9, leading unregistered meeting for worship, 100 MFI fine

18) 7 March 2019, Atyrau Hare Krishna Community, Atyrau Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 1, meeting for worship, case sent back

19) 18 March 2019, Otabek Khaldarov, Muslim, Turkistan Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, opening prayer room in cafeteria, 50 MFI fine

20) 15 April 2019, Sanzharbek Abuvakhidov, Muslim, Sairam District Court, Article 490, Part 1, operating an unregistered prayer room, 50 MFI fine plus 3-month ban

21) 19 April 2019, Sergei Merkulov, Jehovah’s Witness, Glubokoe District Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 1, hosting unregistered meetings for worship, 50 MFI fine (overturned on appeal)

22) 24 April 2019, Svetlana Demina, Protestant, Karaganda Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 3, praying before husband’s birthday meal at home, case closed because time limit for launching case had expired (fined in November 2018 for same event, but fine annulled on appeal)

23) 2 May 2019, Sergei Nurmanov, Jehovah’s Witness, Taranovsky District Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 1, participating in unregistered meeting for worship, 35 MFI fine

24) 14 May 2019, Sarvaz Dzhamalov, Muslim, Merke District Court, Article 490, Part 3, operating an unregistered funeral prayer room, 70 MFI fine

25) 16 May 2019, Fakhradin Ismailov, Muslim, Merke District Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 1, operating an unregistered funeral prayer room (registration application rejected), 50 MFI fine

26) 16 May 2019, Mak Group Shopping Centre, company, Nur-Sultan [Astana] Specialised Inter-District Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 1, operating an unregistered prayer room, 200 MFI fine plus ban on prayer room

27) 6 June 2019, Bolat Isabayev, Jehovah’s Witness, Mugalzhar District Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 1, participating in unregistered meeting for worship on Memorial of Christ’s Death, 35 MFI fine

28) 11 June 2019, Gulammakhambet Taumanuly, Muslim, Zhetysai District Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 4, opening unapproved prayer room, 50 MFI fine plus 3-month ban

– Punishing offering free religious literature

Known administrative cases: 7
Known convictions: 7
50 MFI fines (1 month’s average wage): 5
35 MFI fines (3 weeks’ average wage): 2
3-month bans: 2

Protestants: 7 (including 5 Council of Churches Baptists)

Article 490, Part 1, Point 3 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 MFIs.

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.

1) 7 February 2019, Feruza Akynbekova, Council of Churches Baptist, Taraz Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, offering New Testament on the street, 50 MFI fine (reduced to 35 MFIs on appeal)

2) 26 March 2019, Pavlo Omelich, Council of Churches Baptist, Baizak District Court, Article 490, Part 3, offering Christian literature, 100 MFI fine, changed on appeal to Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, 50 MFI fine

3) 29 March 2019, Yury Kiryushkin, Council of Churches Baptist, Magzhan Zhumabayev District Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering Christian literature, 50 MFI fine plus 3-month ban on distributing religious literature

4) 1 April 2019, Viktor Gizbrecht, Christian, Pavlodar Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering Bible and other Christian books for free online, 50 MFI fine

5) 15 April 2019, Dmitry Mankov (aged 20), Council of Churches Baptist, Nur-Sultan [Astana] Specialised Inter-District Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering Christian books for free, 35 MFI fine

6) 17 April 2019, Valentina Rakhmanova, Protestant, Zyryanovsk District Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering Bible and other Christian books for free, 50 MFI fine

7) 3 May 2019, Dmitry Isayev, Council of Churches Baptist, Berli District Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering Christian books on the street, 50 MFI fine plus 3-month ban on distributing religious literature

– Punishing offering religious literature, items for sale

Known administrative cases: 22
Known convictions: 18
Initial criminal cases (Article 174): 1
50 MFI fines (1 month’s average wage): 4
35 MFI fines (3 weeks’ average wage): 13
Verbal warnings: 1
3-month bans: 13
Literature destruction orders: 2

Commercial traders: 21
Muslims: 1

Article 490, Part 1, Point 3 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 MFIs.

1) 22 January 2019, Sergei Belov, commercial seller, Aktobe Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering religious items (including icons, Buddha figures) for sale, 35 MFI fine plus 3-month ban on activity

2) 24 January 2019, Yelena Makhracheva, commercial seller, Aktobe Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering religious books and items for sale, 50 MFI fine plus 3-month ban on activity

3) 19 February 2019, Kairbek Tolegenuly, commercial seller, Almaty Specialised Inter-District Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3 (initial Criminal Code Article 174, Part 1 investigation), offering Sunni and Sufi Islamic books and items for sale in shop, 35 MFI fine plus 3-month ban on activity

4) 20 February 2019, Svetlana Titova, commercial seller, Almaty Specialised Inter-District Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering Christian prayer books, icons and candles for sale in shop, 35 MFI fine

5) 13 March 2019, Farkhad Zhapparkulov, commercial seller, Turkistan Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering Muslim books for sale on street, 50 MFI fine plus 3-month ban

6) 15 March 2019, Zhenisbek Baitabynov, Muslim, Munaily District Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering religious books for sale, 50 MFI fine

7) 28 March 2019, Murat Zhumaguliyev, commercial seller, Beineu District Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering religious books for sale at market, 35 MFI fine plus 3-month ban

8) 1 April 2019, Murat Kabdullin, commercial seller, Nur-Sultan [Astana] Specialised Inter-District Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering religious books for sale in shop, 35 MFI fine plus 3-month ban on selling religious literature

9) 12 April 2019, Begzod Ismaildzhanov, Muslim, Turkistan Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering religious books for sale at railway station, 50 MFI fine

10) 17 April 2019, Andrei Shelestov, commercial seller, Nur-Sultan [Astana] Specialised Inter-District Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering religious books for sale in shop, 35 MFI fine plus 3-month ban on functioning of section of shop

11) 24 April 2019, Sabit Kenzhegulov, Muslim, Zhilioi District Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering religious books for sale at railway station, 35 MFI fine

12) 2 May 2019, Nursultan Rakhimgozhin, commercial seller, Nur-Sultan [Astana] Specialised Inter-District Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering religious books for sale in shop, 35 MFI fine plus 3-month ban on functioning of shop

13) 3 May 2019, Zauresh Kasymova, commercial seller, Nur-Sultan [Astana] Specialised Inter-District Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering religious books for sale in shop, 35 MFI fine plus 3-month ban on selling religious literature

14) 8 May 2019, Aruzhan Omirbai, commercial seller, Kyzylorda Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering religious books for sale in shop, 35 MFI fine plus 3-month ban plus destruction of 29 Muslim books

15) 29 May 2019, Togzhan Boken, commercial seller, Kyzylorda Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering religious literature and discs for sale, case closed because time limit for launching case had expired

16) 31 May 2019, Baurzhan Kudabayev, commercial seller, Kyzylorda Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering religious items for sale, acquitted

17) 6 June 2019, Talgatbek Nazarov, commercial seller, Kyzylorda Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering items with Arabic inscriptions for sale, acquitted

18) 6 June 2019, Saltanat Zhakipova, commercial seller, Kyzylorda Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering religious literature, prayer mats and other items for sale, case closed because time limit for launching case had expired

19) 11 June 2019, Saltanat Koszhanova, commercial seller, Kyzylorda Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering religious items for sale, verbal warning

20) 12 June 2019, Gulmira Kulumbetova, commercial seller, Kyzylorda Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering 18 Islamic books, a prayer mat and other items for sale, 35 MFI fine plus 3-month ban plus destruction of books

21) 12 June 2019, Shin Raisa Du-Se, commercial seller, Nur-Sultan [Astana] Specialised Inter-District Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering one cross and one crescent jewellery items for sale in shop, 35 MFI fine plus 3-month ban on functioning of shop

22) 26 June 2019, Marina Shirokova, commercial seller, Aktobe Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering religious books for sale in shop, 35 MFI fine plus 3-month ban

– Punishing offering religious literature, items for sale online

Known administrative cases: 20
Known convictions: 20
50 MFI fines (1 month’s average wage): 1
35 MFI fines (3 weeks’ average wage): 16
Verbal warnings: 3
3-month bans: 5 or 6
1-month bans: 3 or 4
Literature retention orders: 2

Private sellers: 20

Article 490, Part 1, Point 3 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 MFIs.

1) 11 January 2019, Dana Rakhimzhanova, seller, Pavlodar Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering religious book for sale online, 35 MFI

2) 25 January 2019, Nurbergen Kunchekeyev, seller, Atyrau Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering Muslim book by Elmir Kuliyev for sale online, 35 MFI fine plus 3-month ban

3) 25 January 2019, Yelena Maslova, seller, Petropavl Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering Bible inherited from grandmother for sale online (“expert” analysis showed Bible did not violate Constitution), 35 MFI fine plus 1-month ban on distributing religious literature and items

4) 13 February 2019, Gennady Vasilyev, seller, Semei Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering Bible and Christian booklet for sale online (“expert” analysis showed their content did not violate Constitution), 35 MFI fine

5) 20 February 2019, Yekaterina Kislitsyna, seller, Almaty Specialised Inter-District Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering icon of Jesus Christ for sale online (“expert” analysis showed icon’s content did not violate Constitution), 35 MFI fine

6) 6 March 2019, Oleg Lobanov, seller, Petropavl Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering Christian children’s book for sale online (“expert” analysis showed it did not violate Constitution), 35 MFI fine plus 1-month ban on distributing religious literature and items

7) 12 March 2019, Natalya Alekseyeva, seller, Petropavl Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering for sale online 1913 German-language Bible inherited from grandmother, 50 MFI fine plus Bible to be retained by Anti-Extremism Police

8) 18 March 2019, Yelena Glushchenko, seller, Petropavl Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering for sale online 1905 issue of Russian Orthodox “Church News”, 35 MFI fine plus 3-month ban on distributing religious literature

9) 27 March 2019, Dmitry Molozhenko, seller, Petropavl Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering Bible for sale online for 1,000 Tenge (“expert” analysis showed Bible did not violate Constitution), 35 MFI fine plus 1-month ban on distributing religious literature and items

10) 28 March 2019, Yelizaveta Volzhinina, seller, Oskemen Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering embroidered picture of mother and child for sale online, 35 MFI fine

11) 1 April 2019, Oksana Malkova, seller, Pavlodar Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering Koran for sale online, 35 MFI

12) 19 April 2019, Bayan Tusupova, seller, Pavlodar Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering children’s Bible in Russian and German for sale online, 35 MFI

13) 23 April 2019, Olga Savoskina, seller, Semei Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering icon for sale online, verbal warning

14) 25 April 2019, Nadezhda Borovskikh, seller, Semei Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering Bible for sale online for 10,000 Tenge (5 days’ pension equivalent) to supplement pension (invalid husband), verbal warning

15) 30 April 2019, Galina Smirnykh, seller, Aksu City Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering Bible for sale online, 35 MFI fine

16) 13 May 2019, Zarina Kazbekova, seller, Shal Akyn District Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering Koran for sale online, 35 MFI fine plus 3-month ban on distributing religious literature

17) 16 May 2019, Madina Koisariyeva, seller, Atyrau Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering 4 Korans for sale online, 35 MFI fine plus 3-month ban

18) 21 May 2019, Irina Buravinskaya, seller, Semei Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering 2 icons for sale online for 8,000 Tenge (10 days’ invalid pension equivalent) (“expert” analysis showed icons’ content did not violate Constitution), verbal warning

19) 21 May 2019, Daniyar Murzabayev, seller, Petropavl Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering 1907 Arabic-language Koran inherited from grandmother for sale online for 5 million Tenge (“expert” analysis was unable to review the Koran because they did not know Arabic), 35 MFI fine plus 1- or 3-month ban on distributing religious literature and items

20) 12 June 2019, Rano Tuzelova, seller, Nur-Sultan [Astana] Specialised Inter-District Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, offering 3 Korans in Arabic for sale online, 35 MFI fine plus 3-month ban plus retention of 3 Korans

– Punishing posting religious materials online

Known administrative cases: 16
Known convictions: 15
Initial criminal cases (Article 174): 2
200 MFI fines (4 months’ average wage): 1
100 MFI fines (2 months’ average wage): 1
70 MFI fines (6 weeks’ average wage): 2
50 MFI fines (1 month’s average wage): 5
35 MFI fines (3 weeks’ average wage): 6
3-month bans: 5
Bans of unspecified duration: 1

Muslims: 16

Article 490, Part 1, Point 3 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 MFIs.

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.

Article 490, Part 8 punishes repeat violations of the Religion Law within one year, with fines on individuals of 200 MFIs.

1) 9 January 2019, Erlan Mukanov, Muslim, Taiynsha District Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3 (initial investigation under Criminal Code Article 174, Part 1), posting religious materials online, 50 MFI fine plus 3-month ban on distributing religious literature

2) 15 January 2019, Azamat Orazly, Muslim, Satbayev District Court, Article 490, Part 3, posting religious materials online, 100 MFI fine

3) 30 January 2019, Duman Suleimenov, Muslim, Satbayev District Court, Article 490, Part 3, posting religious materials online, 100 MFI fine (reduced to 70 MFIs on appeal)

4) 11 February 2019, Zhalgas Nazyrbekov, Muslim, Zhezkazgan City Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, posting religious materials online, 35 MFI fine

5) 12 February 2019, Ardak Aubakirov, Muslim, Karkaraly District Court, Article 490, Part 1, posting religious materials online, 35 MFI fine

6) 12 February 2019, Nurbol Baigenzhinov, Muslim, Karkaraly District Court, Article 490, Part 1 or 3, posting religious materials online, 35 MFI fine

7) 18 February 2019, Nurbol Ibraimov, Muslim, Zhezkazgan City Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, posting religious materials online, 35 MFI fine

8) 4 April 2019, Azat Komutov, Muslim, Abai District Court, Article 490, Part 3, posting religious materials online, 70 MFI fine

9) 10 April 2019, Shingis Sabitov, Muslim, Karkaraly District Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, posting religious materials online, 50 MFI fine plus 3-month ban

10) 2 May 2019, Ernur Toleubekov, Muslim, Temirtau Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, posting religious materials online, 35 MFI fine

11) 8 May 2019, Sairan Abdugaliyev, Muslim, Karkaraly District Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3 (initial Criminal Code Article 174 investigation), posting religious materials online, 50 MFI fine plus 3-month ban

12) 15 May 2019, Yerken Akanov, Muslim, Petropavl Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 8 (second “offence” within one year), sharing religious materials on WhatsApp, 200 MFI fine and ban on distributing religious literature

13) 27 May 2019, Abdurrakhim Termaliyev, Muslim, Mamlyut District Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, posting religious materials online, 50 MFI fine plus 3-month ban on distributing religious literature

14) 30 May 2019, Kaisar Serik, Muslim, Karkaraly District Court, Article 490, Part 1, posting religious materials online, 35 MFI fine

15) 11 June 2019, Adil Mendygaliyev, Muslim, Almaty Specialised Inter-District Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, posting religious materials online, sent back for reclassification under different Article

16) 21 June 2019, Farkhad Zhauyrbekov, Muslim, Almaty Specialised Inter-District Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, posting religious materials online, 50 MFI fine plus 3-month ban on social media account

– Punishing trying to import religious literature

Known administrative cases: 2
Known convictions: 2
50 MFI fines (1 month’s average wage): 2
Literature destruction orders: 1

Muslims: 1
Traders: 1

Article 490, Part 1, Point 3 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 MFIs.

1) 3 January 2019, Gulsanam Katkeldiyeva, Muslim (Kyrgyz citizen), Zhambyl District Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, having 2 Islamic books in luggage entering Kazakhstan from Kyrgyzstan, 50 MFI fine plus book destruction

2) 20 June 2019, Makhmadgafuri Olimzoda, trader (Tajik citizen), Beineu District Court, Article 490, Part 1, Point 3, 36 of 490 books he brought through Kazakh border in transit to Russia for resale were religious, 50 MFI fine plus 3-month ban

– Punishing sharing faith

Known administrative cases: 3
Known convictions: 3
100 MFI fines (2 months’ average wage): 3

Protestants: 3 (all Council of Churches Baptist)

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.

1) 12 April 2019, Nikolai Novikov, Council of Churches Baptist (court decision wrongly describes him as Jehovah’s Witness), Oral Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 3, sharing faith, 100 MFI fine

2) 22 April 2019, Dmitry Isayev, Council of Churches Baptist, Oral Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 3, sharing faith, 100 MFI fine

3) 23 April 2019, Andrei Labinsky, Council of Churches Baptist, Oral Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 3, sharing faith, 100 MFI fine

– Punishing violating mosques’ internal rules

Known administrative cases: 4
Known convictions: 3
50 MFI fines (1 month’s average wage): 2
35 MFI fines (3 weeks’ average wage): 1

Muslims: 4

Article 490, Part 2 punishes: “Impeding lawful religious activity as well as violation of the civil rights of physical persons on grounds of their religious views or insulting their feelings or profanation of items, buildings and places revered by followers of any religion, unless there are signs of criminally punishable actions”. The punishment for individuals is 50 MFIs, and for legal entities 200 MFIs.

1) 12 February 2019, Nariman Bagirov, Muslim, Almaty Specialised Inter-District Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 2, Amen in mosque, 50 MFI fine

2) 19 March 2019, Erbolat Gazimov, Muslim, Zhilioi District Court, Article 490, Part 2, Amen in mosque, 50 MFI fine

3) 20 March 2019, Dauren Kaiyrov, Muslim (18 years old), Zhilioi District Court, Article 490, Part 2, Amen in mosque, 35 MFI fine

4) 22 April 2019, Abai Ospanov, Muslim, Taraz Specialised Administrative Court, Article 490, Part 2, Amen in mosque, acquitted

– Punishing religious teaching

Known administrative cases: 2
Known convictions: 2
70 MFI fines (6 weeks’ average wage): 2

Muslims: 2

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.

1) 10 April 2019, Mukhtar Gadzhiyev, Muslim, Article 490, Part 3, Kyzylorda Specialised Administrative Court, teaching religion to children in charity, 70 MFI fine

2) 10 April 2019, Darkhan Shilmanbetov, Muslim, Article 490, Part 3, Kyzylorda Specialised Administrative Court, teaching religion to children in charity, 70 MFI fine

(END)

The right to believe, to worship and witness
The right to change one’s belief or religion

The right to join together and express one’s belief
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