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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

KAZAKHSTAN: Prisoners of conscience still in jail, others under multiple long-term punishments

3 Muslim prisoners of conscience remain jailed 2 years after the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called for their release "immediately". 5 other Muslim men are in jail for exercising freedom of religion or belief. Also: 6 former prisoners of conscience are serving the rest of their sentences at home under restrictions; 5 other former prisoners of conscience have bans on unspecified or specified activities; 31 others who have completed jail terms or restricted freedom sentences still have bank account access blocked.

TURKMENISTAN: Raids, literature seizures, imam detained

Police in Turkmenbashi and other locations nearby raided homes of devout Muslims in mid-August. They seized religious literature, including books on sharia law and the hadith. They also seized Russian translations of the Koran, leaving only Turkmen-language Koran translations. The Ministry of State Security secret police detained an elderly imam for giving Islamic lessons to children. On 29 August, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called on the regime to end its ban on "practicing religion in cases where an organization is unregistered".

RUSSIA: Second jail term for opposing Russia's war in Ukraine on religious grounds

On 31 August, a St Petersburg court jailed 55-year-old Fr Ioann Kurmoyarov for 3 years and banned him from posting on the internet for 2 years for distributing "false information about the Russian Armed Forces". His is the second known prison term for opposing Russia's war against Ukraine from a religious perspective. In March, a Moscow court jailed Mikhail Simonov for 7 years. Fr Ioann pleaded guilty, telling the court: "I undertake in the future not to touch upon the topic of the conduct of special military operations by our troops."

TURKMENISTAN: Pensioner's pilgrimage departure blocked for five months

On 23 August, Yakutjan Babajanova finally left Turkmenistan for her umra pilgrimage to Mecca, five months after Ashgabat Airport officials refused to allow the 73-year-old to board her flight, despite having all documentation. Officials gave no reason. "We managed to break through the blank wall that the authorities erected by forbidding my mother this spring to fulfil her lifelong dream," her daughter said. Migration Service officials refused to discuss her case. More pilgrims were allowed to join the 2023 haj, but far more were denied.

BELARUS: Is regime planning to liquidate New Life Church?

The regime seized and demolished the place of worship of Minsk's New Life Pentecostal Church, banned it from meeting outdoors in its car park, jailed its Pastor Vyacheslav Goncharenko for 10 days and banned its website for six months. On 23 August, a closed court hearing declared two of its internet postings from 2020 "extremist". Asked if the regime is planning to strip the Church of its legal status, Deputy Plenipotentiary for Religious and Ethnic Affairs Sergei Gerasimenya refused to say.

BELARUS: Threatened with criminal prosecution for sharing faith in public

Prosecutor Fyodor Mikhovich refused to explain why he threatened Baptist Vladimir Burshtyn with criminal prosecution if he continues to share his faith in public. "I do not know who you are," he told Forum 18. The threat came after a court fined Burshtyn a month's average pension for sharing his faith. Border guards detained Greek Catholic Boris Khamaida as he travelled to a pilgrimage. A jail term prevented him from attending. A draft new Religion Law is set to reach Parliament in September.

RUSSIA: Freedom of religion and belief monitoring group to be liquidated

Russia's leading freedom of religion and belief monitoring group ceases to exist as a legal entity. On 17 August, a Moscow Appeal Court rejected SOVA Center for Information and Analysis's appeal against its liquidation. Moscow's Justice Department claimed it committed "gross violations" of the law by holding events outside Moscow. SOVA's director Aleksandr Verkhovsky notes the "obvious and extreme selectivity" of the Justice Department's claims against human rights groups "but not to hundreds of others". The Non-Governmental Organisations Department at Moscow's Justice Department refused comment.

RUSSIA: Pacifist Christian musician fined, banned from internet posting

Musician and teacher Anna Chagina has been handed a fine and a ban on internet posting for opposing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. She stood accused of "discrediting" the Russian armed forces more than once in a year. "I also want to remind you of a simple ethical rule – do to others as you would have them do to you," Chagina said in her final statement. Elsewhere, Mikhail Simonov, the first person to be sentenced to jail for opposing the war from a religious perspective, has lost his appeal against his 7-year jail term.