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KAZAKHSTAN: Fourteenth known 2014 short-term prison term

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>.

Court Case Delayed For Ex-Cop Arrested After Sharing Faith At NJ Mall

Mall

New Jersey: David Wells, a former Long Branch police officer who was charged with defiant trespass for handing out religious pamphlets at Monmouth Mall in Eatontown, New Jersey, will again have to wait for his day in court. The court case was originally scheduled for Dec. 5, 2013, but has been postponed—for the fourth time.

APP is reporting that Eatontown Borough Prosecutor, Sean T. Kean asked for the case to be adjourned because Mall representatives were unable to attend. Judge Robert B. Thompson granted his request.

“There are a lot of constitutional issues. It’s a little bit more complicated than the average case we see in this court,” Thompson said, adding that both sides have used up their postponements and he won’t grant another.

Wells, was initially charged by Eatontown police officers on Nov. 5 when he refused to stop talking to people and engage them in conversations at the Monmouth Mall.

Mall security approached him and told him to stop and leave the property. They said the mall was private property and that he couldn’t distribute tracts there. Wells defended that he had a right to do what he was doing, and cited a state court ruling that declared malls a quasi-public venue where such leaflets could be distributed. The mall’s code of conduct allows picketing, leafleting, soliciting and/or petitioning with prior written consent from mall management, which Wells did not have. Security called the police.

When Eatontown police officers arrived, Wells explained that he didn’t want to be arrested, but after continuing to assert that his activities were legal, Wells was arrested and charged with trespassing. In court, he plead ‘not guilty’ to the charges.

In Nov. 2013, Wells told the Christian News Network,

“I want to emphasize that I was not making any public spectacle: no signs, no loudness, no offensive language. I was simply trying to talk to people. I simply approached individuals and asked them if I could ask them a question. If they said no, I left them alone. If they said yes I simply asked, ‘Are you going to Heaven?’ How I responded was based on how they answered that question.”

freedom of speech taped“If we’ve gotten to the point in the U.S. that we cannot talk to other people civilly, we’re in trouble.”

 

David’s attorney, Demetrios Stratis said they will ask Thompson for a dismissal of the charge.

New Jersey legal statute defines defiant trespass as a petty disorderly persons offense.

While it has been reported that Wells was handing out Bible tracts, David Wells told Voice of the Persecuted,

I never defended my right to handout literature, but my right to talk to people and engage them in conversations. What I was using looked like trillion dollar bills and I used them as an ‘Ice breaker’ to facilitate a conversation. The fact is that I wasn’t handing them out willy-nilly to every passerby.

I would pose the question, “Would you like to answer a question for a trillion dollars?” If the person did not, they did not get the (fake) money. The trillion dollars were nothing more than novelties to start a conversation.

trillion

The prosecution wants to make the handling out of leaflets the center of the case, but that is the furthest thing from the truth, and that’s what I told them repeatedly at the mall. In other words, I didn’t leave because I believed I had a right to leaflet, I didn’t leave because I have a right to talk to people.

The police reports reflect that he maintained his right to speak freely.

We also asked David if the case has diminished his mission to share the Gospel in any way. He told VOP,  “This hasn’t had any negative affect, only positive!”

David mentioned that since his arrest, he had been wondering how God will use this ‘event’ for His glory. He met a man who works on Wall Street who shared with him how the arrest ultimately lead to discussions with his unsaved co-workers about Jesus Christ! David added, “I was very blessed to hear this! Praises to God!”

At one of the court appearances, a friend from David’s church was able to witness to a reporter who was covering the story, along with two other people. Wells said, “Seeds were planted that day!”

petition to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, as well as officials of Vornado Realty, was started on Wells’ behalf, asking the company and Monmouth Mall to allow free speech, and to “change their policies to comply with the protections of the United States Constitution and judicial case law banning discrimination.”

The petition was started by Robert Angelini, who believes Wells was within his rights to distribute leaflets. Angelini is a former police officer who retired from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office in 2012.

In the petition, Angelini states:

“Our interpretation of the manager’s explanation and the mall’s code of conduct makes a reasonable person believe, if you engage any person anywhere on mall property and utter anything ‘religious’; and/or hand out leaflets and that utterance brings a complaint from at least one person, you will be asked to leave the property and arrested if you don’t comply.

“Dave, standing up for our religious freedom and our Constitutional rights, was treated like a common criminal. His crime? Refusing to leave the mall for engaging people in conversation about God’s love and salvation.”

You can sign the petition HERE

By Lois Kanalos, Voice of the Persecuted

Mark 16:15

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Mark16:15

Retired N.J. Police Officer Arrested After Promoting His Faith At Mall

arrested

EATONTOWN – A retired Long Branch police officer was charged with trespassing last week after promoting his faith to shoppers at Monmouth Mall.

According to the Christian News Network, David Wells, a former corporal with the Long Branch Police Department, was distributing religious materials to mall patrons “in hopes that it will cause them to ponder matters of eternity.”

“I simply approached individuals and asked them if I could ask them a question. If they said no, I left them alone,” Wells told the Christian News Network. “If they said yes I simply asked, ‘Are you going to Heaven?’ How I responded was based on how they answered that question.”

Wells said he had witnessed to mall patrons in the presence of mall security without an issue in the past, but that last Tuesday was different.

“The mall security came over and immediately told me to stop what I was doing and to leave the property,” he said. “They indicated that the mall was private property and [that I couldn’t distribute tracts there].”

However, citing a state court ruling that declared malls a quasi-public venue where such leaflets could be distributed, Wells argued that he had a right to do what he was doing, which prompted mall security to call the police.

When police arrived, Wells said, they instructed him to leave the mall or be arrested.

“I was polite about it,” Wells said. “I told them I didn’t want to get arrested. I wasn’t trying to make a scene, but I also wasn’t doing anything wrong.”

After continuing to assert that his activities were legal, Wells was arrested and charged with trespassing, which he reportedly pleaded not guilty to on Thursday.

“I want to emphasize that I was not making any public spectacle: no signs, no loudness, no offensive language. I was simply trying to talk to people,” Wells told the Christian News Network.

“If we’ve gotten to the point in the U.S. that we cannot talk to other people civilly, we’re in trouble.”

Wells is scheduled to appear in court again on December 5, the report said.

[New Jersey]nj.com

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