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22 March 2019

KAZAKHSTAN: More raids on worship, fines

Police raided a third Baptist church in Taraz, summarily fining two more worshippers. Only one of five now fined did not appeal. "We don't pay fines voluntarily, so they'll take the money from his pension," a Baptist noted. Police raided a Hare Krishna meeting in Atyrau. Officials later withdrew the prosecution.

4 March 2019

KAZAKHSTAN: One city, two raids, three fines

Police in Taraz – including anti-terrorism officers – raided two Baptist worship meetings on successive Sundays in February. Police summarily fined three Baptists and issued two warnings. Despite claiming "our laws don't ban praying", state religious affairs official Balgabek Myrzayev defended punishing people who meet for worship without state permission.

1 March 2019

KAZAKHSTAN: Germany rejects extradition request

Germany rejected Kazakhstan's request to extradite Murat Bakrayev for talks on Islam Kazakhstan insists incited hatred and terrorism. A Kazakh judge ordered Muslim books destroyed, including a hadith collection. A Kazakh court rejected Muslim prisoner of conscience Kuanysh Bashpayev's request for conditional release after earlier torture.

27 February 2019

KAZAKHSTAN: 19 years' jail to follow forcible return?

Forcibly returned from Saudi Arabia in December 2018, Dilmurat Makhamatov is in pre-trial detention in Shymkent as the KNB secret police investigate him for allegedly "inciting religious hatred" and "propaganda of terrorism" for remarks on Islam. The KNB investigator repeatedly refused to discuss Makhamatov's case with Forum 18.

14 February 2019

KAZAKHSTAN: Three years' jail, five years' religion ban

A Balkhash court jailed Abilai Bokbasarov for three years to punish him for meetings about Islam. It also banned him from exercising freedom of religion for five years after his term, the equal longest such ban. A judge refused to explain what he will be banned from doing.

1 February 2019

KAZAKHSTAN: 165 administrative prosecutions in 2018 - list

Full list of 165 known administrative prosecutions in 2018 to punish exercising freedom of religion or belief. Of these, 139 ended up with punishments, including fines, worship bans, seizures and destruction of religious literature, short-term jail terms and one deportation.

31 January 2019

KAZAKHSTAN: 165 known administrative prosecutions in 2018

In 165 known administrative prosecutions in 2018, 139 individuals, religious communities, charities and companies were punished for worship meetings, offering religious literature and pictures (including online), sharing or teaching faith, posting material online, praying in mosques, allowing a parent to bring a child to meetings, or inadequate security measures.

17 January 2019

KAZAKHSTAN: Courts' book-destroying "barbarism" continues

A Judge ordered destroyed 85 Islamic booklets seized from an individual for offering them for sale without state permission, telling Forum 18 he "doesn't need" them. Another court ordered "Bible Stories" destroyed. "Sad", "ABSURD" and "not in accord with international standards" are some responses to these destruction orders.

7 December 2018

KAZAKHSTAN: Second long jailing for online Islamic talks

A court jailed 28-year-old father of one Dadash Mazhenov for over seven years for posting Islamic talks online, the second jailing by the same court. The secret police claimed the talks promoted terrorism, which both men reject. The judge sought to have Mazhenov's lawyer punished for "correctly defending the interests of his client".

30 October 2018

KAZAKHSTAN: Ever harsher jailings for religious talks

In April 2017 Kazakhstan jailed Kuanysh Bashpayev for later banned Islamic talks. Now Galymzhan Abilkairov, one of two who posted some of the talks online before the ban, has been jailed for seven years, seven months. Dadash Mazhenov's verdict is due on 5 November.

17 October 2018

KAZAKHSTAN: Ten years jail if Germany extradites Muslim?

Murat Bakrayev has not been in his native Kazakhstan since 2005, but Kazakhstan now wants his extradition from Germany on terrorism-related accusations. Family and friends say he is being detained and his extradition sought for refusing to join Kazakh state-controlled mosques and teaching Islam.

28 September 2018

KAZAKHSTAN: Senate approves more religious freedom restrictions

Parliament's upper house adopted almost unchanged wide-ranging amendments to Kazakhstan's Religion Law and 10 other laws in both first and second readings on 27 September. The Amending Law – described by one Muslim as "extremely harsh" – returns to the lower house, the Majilis, before final adoption.

25 September 2018

KAZAKHSTAN: Senate to adopt "extremely harsh" religion amendments?

Parliament's upper house is due to hold its first and possibly also second reading on 27 September of wide-ranging amendments to Kazakhstan's Religion Law and other laws. "This draft Law is extremely harsh, harms the rights of believers and should not be adopted in its current form," a Muslim told Forum 18.

4 September 2018

KAZAKHSTAN: Religious freedom survey, September 2018

Kazakhstan restricts freedom of religion and belief, along with interlinked freedoms of expression, association, and assembly. Forum 18's survey analyses violations including increasing numbers of prisoners jailed for exercising freedom of religion and belief, with increasing types of "offences", prosecution numbers, and fine levels.

22 August 2018

KAZAKHSTAN: Raid, fines to punish Koran teaching

On 3 September, Jambyl Regional Court is due to hear appeals by husband and wife Aidar Kharsanov and Zarina Manu against combined fines of more than four months' average wages. Police raided their home while they were teaching Koran to school-age girls and a lower court fined them.

26 July 2018

KAZAKHSTAN: Restricted freedom, community service for religious meetings

A judge in Aktobe Region punished seven Muslims with restricted freedom sentences of one to three years for holding religious meetings. Four were also given 120 hours' community service. A court has awarded compensation to atheist writer Aleksandr Kharlamov who was held for six months during a nearly six-year criminal investigation.

4 July 2018

KAZAKHSTAN: 79 known administrative prosecutions in six months

Of 79 known administrative prosecutions in the first half of 2018 for exercising freedom of religion or belief, 61 ended with fines of up to four months' average wages. A quarter of those punished also received three-month bans on activity. Meeting for worship, offering religious literature and sharing faith without state permission triggered such punishments.

5 June 2018

KAZAKHSTAN: Restrictive legal amendments reach Senate

Wide-ranging amendments to Kazakhstan's Religion Law and 11 other laws that seem set to increase still further the already tight restrictions on freedom of religion or belief begin consideration in Parliament's upper house. Working Group chair Sergei Ershov was unable to say if he would send the draft Law for an OSCE review.

30 May 2018

KAZAKHSTAN: Legal amendments - no text, no OSCE review

Kazakhstan's Human Rights Ombudsperson called on 2 May for the parliamentary Working Group considering the wide-ranging amendments to the Religion Law and other laws to send them for an OSCE legal review. The Working Group head rejected this. The amendments, now adopted by the lower house, are likely to reach the Senate soon, but the public has no access to the text.

22 May 2018

KAZAKHSTAN: 40 months, 65 criminal convictions

Three Muslims who drank tea, prayed and discussed their faith have failed to overturn their three-year jail terms on appeal. The men's bank accounts are likely now to be blocked and they owe a large sum in court fees. Their jailing means 65 alleged Tabligh Jamaat members have been convicted since 2015.

18 May 2018

KAZAKHSTAN: Why were prisoner's conditions made harsher?

After prisoner of conscience Imam Abdukhalil Abduzhabbarov's transfer to a harsher prison he is held in solitary confinement with one short daily exercise period, and can have only two two-hour meetings with relatives a year. He is only occasionally allowed to read the Koran.

20 April 2018

KAZAKHSTAN: Parents challenge schoolgirl headscarf ban

Kazakhstan's national schoolgirl headscarf ban is being legally challenged by a group of Muslim parents, whose daughters have been banned from school for wearing a headscarf. In their interpretation of Islam, they argue, wearing a headscarf is compulsory. Officials deny a headscarf problem exists.

11 April 2018

KAZAKHSTAN: State demands young worshippers' personal data

A Kazakh regional Religious Affairs Department has demanded the personal data of everyone under 18 who attends Christian meetings for worship. "It was not sent to Muslims, for example, just to Christians, and selectively", an official stated. She refused to explain what "selectively" means.

5 April 2018

KAZAKHSTAN: Cancer sufferer freed, other cases continue

Transferred by train from Pavlodar labour camp to cancer hospital in Almaty, Jehovah's Witness pensioner Teymur Akhmedov was pardoned and freed on 4 April. Prosecutors say a criminal case against a Protestant pastor will "soon" be closed down. Prosecutors are still investigating a five-year-old criminal case against an atheist. The trial of three Muslims continues in Karaganda.

26 March 2018

KAZAKHSTAN: Raid, filming, fingerprinting, insults, criminal case

"Anti-extremism" police raided Kyzylorda's New Life Church, halted Sunday worship, filmed those present, and forced them to state why they attend. Teachers from a Special School questioned adult former students why they were present and insulted their faith. Pastor Serik Bisembayev faces criminal investigation for "inciting discord".

15 March 2018

KAZAKHSTAN: One church, two prosecutions

Shymkent's New Life Protestant Church was fined for having three not five fire detectors in a storage building and banned for one month. The ban will go into force if the church's appeal fails. But the court acquitted a church member of helping an apparent police agent provocateur download a Bible onto her phone.

5 March 2018

KAZAKHSTAN: 24 criminal convictions in 2017, more imminent?

Zholbarys Zhumanazarov – jailed for one year in Almaty Region for alleged membership of the Tabligh Jamaat Muslim missionary movement – became the 24th known individual given a criminal conviction in 2017 for exercising freedom of religion and belief. The criminal trial of three more begins in Karaganda on 12 March.

31 January 2018

KAZAKHSTAN: 284 administrative prosecutions in 2017 - list

Full list of 284 known administrative prosecutions in 2017 to punish exercising freedom of religion or belief. Of these, 263 ended up with punishments, including fines, a short-term jail term, deportations, worship bans, seizures and destruction of religious literature.

30 January 2018

KAZAKHSTAN: 284 known administrative prosecutions in 2017

In 284 known administrative prosecutions in 2017, 263 individuals, religious communities, charities and companies were punished for worship meetings, offering or importing religious literature and pictures (including online), sharing or teaching faith, posting material online, praying in mosques, allowing a parent to bring a child to meetings, inadequate security measures or failing to pay earlier fines.

12 January 2018

KAZAKHSTAN: Six await trial; cancer sufferer not freed

Three of six Muslims arrested in October 2017 have had pre-trial detention extended for two more months. All six face up to two years' imprisonment if convicted of involvement in missionary movement Tabligh Jamaat. A second United Nations body has called for Jehovah's Witness prisoner of conscience, cancer-sufferer Teymur Akhmedov to be freed.

29 November 2017

KAZAKHSTAN: Compulsory re-registration if restrictions become law

Amending Law imposing new restrictions on freedom of religion or belief is now with Prime Minister. If adopted, it will require re-registration of almost all religious communities, and impose new restrictions on and punishments for religious education, sharing beliefs, censorship of literature and (for state officials) participating in worship.

23 November 2017

KAZAKHSTAN: Continuing attempts to stop communities meeting

Baptists in Ekibastuz have been fined and told that they "should not meet for worship until they register". Meetings for worship by Oskemen's New Life Church remain banned until 19 December after church members, relatives and friends sang religious songs without state permission. Officials would not explain why football fans don't need permission to publicly sing songs but religious believers do.

17 November 2017

KAZAKHSTAN: Six more arrests for sharing faith

Six Sunni Muslims arrested in Karaganda are under criminal investigation for alleged membership of a Muslim missionary movement. Three of them are in pre-trial detention. All known criminal cases against conscientious objectors have been dropped.

3 November 2017

KAZAKHSTAN: UN call for prisoner of conscience's release

A Baptist has been given a criminal conviction for refusal to pay a fine for – as the Constitution allows - handing out religious literature on the street. And the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has called for a prisoner of conscience's "immediate" release.

10 October 2017

KAZAKHSTAN: More restrictions to Parliament in December?

More restrictions on exercising freedom of religion and belief may reach Parliament in December. The latest October draft includes restrictions on parents' and childrens' freedom, more sharing belief restrictions, and more censorship. The draft ignores previous UN Human Rights Committee and OSCE legal recommendations.

22 September 2017

KAZAKHSTAN: Criminal cases, and no alternative service

Four Jehovah's Witness young men could face up to one year's imprisonment for refusing compulsory military service on grounds of conscience if criminal investigations against them reach court. Military Conscription Offices rejected their certificates as religious ministers despite the law granting exemption to "clergy of registered religious associations".

6 September 2017

KAZAKHSTAN: Worship banned

Courts banned worship by Almaty's Source of Life Protestant Church from April to July, Almaty's Jehovah's Witness Centre from August to November, and – if its appeal fails – Oskemen's New Life Protestant Church for three months. Jehovah's Witnesses described their ban as "a grossly disproportionate penalty".

29 August 2017

KAZAKHSTAN: 22nd known 2017 criminal conviction

Sunni Imam Abdukhalil Abduzhabbarov was jailed for eight years for inciting religious hatred "with serious consequences", charges he denied. He is the 22nd individual convicted in 2017. Seven others jailed have failed in their appeals. One of two criminal cases against atheist Aleksandr Kharlamov has been closed.

18 August 2017

KAZAKHSTAN: More legal restrictions to reach parliament

Legal amendments to 4 Codes and 13 Laws (including the already restrictive Religion Law) about to reach parliament seem set to impose further controls and punishments for non-state-approved religious teaching, confiscate religious literature which fails to pass the state censorship, and allow religious organisations to be banned.

15 August 2017

KAZAKHSTAN: Four years' jail for sharing faith

Tekeli Court in Almaty Region jailed 25-year-old Iliyan Raiymzhan for four years for alleged membership of Muslim missionary movement Tabligh Jamaat. The Prosecutor claimed "society suffered" because of Raiymzhan's exercise of freedom of religion, but refused to say how or identify any specific victims.

4 August 2017

KAZAKHSTAN: Six fines, one deportation for baptism

After a Protestant Pastor and five foreign guests held baptisms in hot springs near Almaty, a court fined all six and ordered one foreigner deported, deeming they had conducted illegal "missionary activity". A Baptist pastor succeeded in overturning a police fine for leading his church.

3 August 2017

KAZAKHSTAN: Fines for offering religious literature

After Transport Police found nine Muslim books in an Astana Airport gift shop, a court fined the company and ordered the shop section closed for three months. This is one of 15 cases to punish freedom of religion so far in one court in 2017.

25 July 2017

KAZAKHSTAN: Twentieth known 2017 criminal conviction

Sunni Muslim Dmitry Tsilenko, jailed for three years for alleged membership of banned Muslim missionary movement Tabligh Jamaat, is the 20th individual known to have been criminally convicted in 2017 for exercising freedom of religion or belief. Imam Abdukhalil Abduzhabbarov's trial began on 25 July.

13 July 2017

KAZAKHSTAN: Another jail term, another trial imminent

Satymzhan Azatov was jailed for four years eight months for inciting religious discord and promoting terrorism, which he denied. He is the fourth Muslim who studied in Saudi Arabia convicted in 2017. The trial of Imam Abdukhalil Abduzhabbarov, punished in Investigation Prison for observing Ramadan, is imminent.

30 June 2017

KAZAKHSTAN: Six jailed for sharing faith

Six months after arrest, six Sunni Muslims were jailed in Atyrau for between two and three years for sharing their faith, with post-prison bans on religious activity. Their bank accounts are likely to be frozen. They are among 18 known criminal convictions in 2017.

21 June 2017

KAZAKHSTAN: Secret trial after six months' imprisonment

At a closed trial in Atyrau in a secret police-initiated case, with the lawyers sworn to secrecy, six Sunni Muslims face possible years of imprisonment for talking to others of their faith. Jehovah's Witness cancer sufferer Teymur Akhmedov failed to overturn his five-year prison term.

15 June 2017

KAZAKHSTAN: Five years' jail for Islamic talks

Sunni Muslim Nariman Seytzhanov was given five years' jail for "inciting religious discord" by talking about schools of Islam to Kazakh pilgrims to Saudi Arabia. Satymzhan Azatov's trial on similar charges continues in Astana on 21 June. Five years' suspended sentence handed down in Almaty.

8 June 2017

KAZAKHSTAN: Fingerprints, mugshots, fines follow worship raid

After one of many recent raids on Baptist Sunday meetings for worship in Taraz, police took 21 people present to the police station. Claiming they were looking for criminals, officers fingerprinted and photographed them and took addresses and personal data. Police issued summary fines.

22 May 2017

KAZAKHSTAN: "Anti-extremism" raid captures Koran

An "anti-extremism" raid on a Kokshetau shop captured a Koran and other Muslim books. The seller was fined for selling religious materials without state permission. She will have to appeal if she wants to regain the books. Icon and book sellers are often fined.

3 May 2017

KAZAKHSTAN: Five years jail, three year ban

Jehovah's Witness prisoner of conscience, pensioner and cancer-sufferer Teymur Akhmedov was jailed in Astana on 2 May for five years and banned for a further three years from conducting "ideological/preaching activity". He denied KNB secret police charges of "inciting religious discord" and will appeal.

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