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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

CRIMEA: "They conducted Friday prayers at gunpoint"

The Russian Police's Centre for Countering Extremism raided Alushta's independent Yukhary-Jami mosque on 23 November, as well as the homes of the Imam, Yusuf Ashirov, and two leaders. A court jailed the three men for several days. While the Imam was jailed, Centre for Countering Extremism officers came to Friday prayers to support an Imam from the Crimean Muslim Board (to which the mosque does not belong). Lieutenant Colonel Ruslan Shambazov told the head of the mosque community to get the community to accept the new Board-imposed Imam.

RUSSIA: Fourth post-prison Jehovah's Witness deportation

Despite living half his life in Russia and marriage to a Russian citizen, 46-year-old Jehovah's Witness Rustam Seidkuliyev was deported to his native Turkmenistan in September after completing his jail term for exercising freedom of religion or belief. Officials did not explain to Forum 18 why his Russian citizenship had been annulled in 2022, given his long residence in Russia, that there were no victims in his criminal case, and that his family had had to leave Turkmenistan because of their exercise of freedom of religion or belief.

KYRGYZSTAN: Repressive draft new Religion Law out for public discussion

The Chair of the State Commission for Religious Affairs, Toygonbay Abdykarov, insisted to Forum 18 that the proposed new Religion Law it prepared "may be restrictive, but we have all the reasons for it to be so". It would continue to require all religious communities to gain state registration before being allowed to exercise freedom of religion or belief, but would require re-registration every 5 years. An Amending Law would impose Violations Code fines for a greater range of "offences". The public have until 9 December to submit comments.

BELARUS: New Life Church appeals against liquidation

On 17 October, Minsk City Court ordered the liquidation of New Life Full Gospel Church, Yekaterina Kaverina of Minsk City Executive Committee stating that some of the Church's online materials are "extremist". Kaverina refused to explain why she had sought the Church's liquidation after 31 years. The Church has appealed to the Supreme Court against the liquidation decision, which does not go into force until the appeal is heard. No date has yet been set for the hearing. "We are waiting," a church member told Forum 18.

ARMENIA: Conscientious objector's two-year jail term

On 25 October, a Yerevan court handed Baptist conscientious objector Davit Nazaretyan a two-year jail sentence for "Avoidance of mandatory military or alternative service or conscription", despite his repeated requests for alternative civilian service. "Of course it's bad, but the law demands it," said religious affairs official Vardan Astsatryan. Nazaretyan plans to appeal, and is at home until it is heard. Multiple officials have not explained to Forum 18 why international human rights obligations to respect the rights of conscientious objectors to military service should not apply in Nazaretyan's case.

RUSSIA: Armed raid on Krasnodar Region church

In early October, 10 unidentified armed men raided a non-Moscow Patriarchate Russian Orthodox Church in the southern Krasnodar Region whose clergy have repeatedly spoken out against Russia's war in Ukraine. A priest was physically tortured, detained, and charged with "disobeying a police officer" and "discrediting the Russian Armed Forces". "At least five searches took place simultaneously", Fr Iona told Forum 18. The Krasnodar Region branches of the Investigative Committee, Federal Security Service (FSB), Interior Ministry, and National Guard failed to respond to Forum 18's questions about the raid.

UKRAINE: Three years' jail for Adventist conscientious objector to mobilisation

45-year-old Seventh-day Adventist Dmytro Zelinsky is serving his 3-year jail term for refusing mobilisation on grounds of conscience, and is due to arrive soon in a Kolomyia prison. On 28 August, Ternopil Appeal Court acceded to Prosecutor Roman Harmatiuk's request to overturn his June acquittal. Harmatiuk did not respond to Forum 18 to say why he appealed against the acquittal. Zelinsky is preparing a Supreme Court appeal. Courts have handed conscientious objectors 3 prison sentences (2 of them later overturned), 9 suspended prison terms, and 2 acquittals (which prosecutors are challenging). Seven criminal trials continue.

KYRGYZSTAN: Six-month jail term for questioning official religious policy

On 13 September, Protestant Aytbek Tynaliyev completed his six-month jail term. Arrested in May, a Chuy Region court convicted him in July for "inciting religious enmity" for social media posts sharing his faith and questioning the authorities' religious policy. Prosecutor Kaliya Rysbek kyzy refused to say how exactly Tynaliyev insulted Islam and why she called for a two-year jail term. The two Justice Ministry religious "experts", who supported the prosecution case in court, would not explain why they considered Tynaliyev's comments represented "disinformation about the religion of Islam".