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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

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KAZAKHSTAN: Targeting ethnic Dungan Koran teachers

Kordai District Court fined two more ethnic Dungan Muslims seven weeks' average wages each for teaching the Koran to children. The court issued eight such fines between 2018 and 2020, all to Dungan Muslims. More than half the administrative fines for teaching religion to children in Kazakhstan are in Kordai District. Police chief Maksat Erezhepov insists these prosecutions were "in line with the law". "Any actions that contradict the law will face severe measures." Both he and the regional religious affairs official deny any "ethnic factor" in the prosecutions.

KAZAKHSTAN: "People don't have the right to distribute religious materials in any form whatsoever"

Courts fined at least 18 people in 2021 for distributing religious literature, texts, videos, audio and items in places and ways the regime declares illegal under its compulsory religious censorship. Most fines were of three weeks' average wages. "People don't have the right to distribute religious materials in any form whatsoever, whether text, video or audio," insists Kayrulla Kushkaliyev of Atyrau's Religious Affairs Department – which brought six prosecutions. The UN Human Rights Committee found an import ban on ten Jehovah's Witness publications violated Polat Bekzhan's rights.

KAZAKHSTAN: 134 administrative prosecutions in 2020

In 134 known administrative prosecutions in 2020, 114 individuals (one twice), three charities and one company were punished for worship meetings, offering religious literature and items (including online), sharing or teaching faith, posting religious material online, or praying in mosques. At least 14 fines were imposed in January 2021. Deputy Chair Anuar Khatiyev of the regime's Religious Affairs Committee refused to discuss why individuals should face prosecution and punishment for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief.

KAZAKHSTAN: Court rejects seriously-ill prisoner's release plea

Despite serious heart problems, 42-year-old Muslim prisoner of conscience Zhuldyzbek Taurbekov was not on 26 November freed early. North Kazakhstan Regional Court rejected his appeal against an earlier denial, even though "his illness is on the list of illnesses for which prisoners should be freed" his lawyer told Forum 18. There are 17 known prisoners of conscience jailed for exercising freedom of religion or belief, all Muslim men.

KAZAKHSTAN: Tortured prisoner of conscience jailed again

After being arrested in 2018, jailed, tortured, acquitted, and put on trial again, 30-year-old Sunni Muslim Dadash Mazhenov has been jailed for nearly 8 years on the same "terrorism" charges he faced in 2018. His "crime" was to post online 4 Islamic talks, which he later deleted. In 2019 he was tortured for praying in prison, but no officials have been arrested or tried for this. One official insisted to Forum 18 that prisoner of conscience Mazhenov tortured himself.

KAZAKHSTAN: No surgery yet for prisoner needing heart transplant

Despite Muslim prisoner of conscience Zhuldyzbek Taurbekov being seriously ill and needing a heart transplant, he was sent from Petropavl Labour Camp on an over 1,000 kilometre journey to Pavlodar Labour Camp. "I am very worried about Zhuldyzbek," his mother told Forum 18. The chief doctor of Pavlodar Labour Camp medical unit confirmed that Taurbekov needs a heart transplant, and that Pavlodar has no suitable cardiology centre.

KAZAKHSTAN: Courts fail to halt seizure of Churches' property

Almaty's New Life Church was not represented when the City Court upheld an earlier court decision to seize two buildings the Church bought in 1993 and uses as a spiritual centre. Almaty Justice Department officials responsible for carrying out the seizure refused to answer questions. A Nur-Sultan court rejected Grace Presbyterian Church's suit to have annulled an order seizing their church, and the half-built place of worship of Agape Pentecostal Church.

KAZAKHSTAN: Two churches' buildings ordered confiscated in Nur-Sultan

Nur-Sultan city administration ordered the confiscation of Grace Presbyterian Church, and of Agape Pentecostal Church's half-finished place of worship on the same site. Grace Church – which bought its building in 2001 - is challenging the order in court. "From 2002 we have dreamed of having our own building, and we just started building it," says Agape Church Pastor Igor Tsay. "And then this. It was unexpected – a shock."

KAZAKHSTAN: Warned for violating coronavirus regulations, but fined for leading worship

After a raid on Baptists meeting for worship in Pavlodar despite coronavirus restrictions, Pastor Isak Neiman was warned for violating anti-coronavirus measures. But after the warning, which he accepted, he was fined nearly two months' average wages on a second charge of leading an unregistered religious community meeting for worship without state permission. Officials in Aktobe fined a shopping centre administrator for allowing Muslims to pray in a unit there.

KAZAKHSTAN: "I lost consciousness three times because of the pain"

Despite Muslim prisoner of conscience Dadash Mazhenov's credible allegations of Labour Camp torture, none of the named officials seems yet to be arrested or facing criminal trial for torture, in defiance of international law. The Coalition Against Torture has appointed a lawyer to work on the case, and noted that few prison torture cases ever reach court, with few officials found guilty.

KAZAKHSTAN: Conviction annulled, yet still jailed on trial

Despite the Supreme Court annulling his conviction, prisoner of conscience Dadash Mazhenov was not acquitted but put on trial again. He rejects "propaganda of terrorism" charges for posting Islamic talks online. For a new "expert analysis", the court commissioned Roza Akbarova, whose assessments have helped convict three prisoners of conscience. Muslim prisoner of conscience Zhuldyzbek Taurbekov is to be transferred to a labour camp far from specialised medical care.

KAZAKHSTAN: 24 prisoners of conscience - list

24 Muslims are jailed for up to 8 years to punish exercising freedom of religion or belief (though one is facing a second trial). 3 Protestants were given jail terms in absentia. 6 individuals are serving restricted freedom sentences. 16 are under post-jailing bans on activity. 27 who completed sentences still have bank accounts blocked. "Religious practice must be protected and never be criminalized as extremism," insists UN Special Rapporteur Fionnuala Ní Aoláin.

KAZAKHSTAN: Emergency hospital stay for jailed Muslim

Muslim prisoner of conscience Zhuldyzbek Taurbekov, who suffers from dilated cardiomyopathy, was transferred from Investigation Prison to Almaty's Cardiology Centre but after six days was today (20 April) transferred back. "Doctors say he's better, but I don't believe it," says Taurbekov's mother. Earlier in April, Almaty City Court rejected Taurbekov's appeal against a seven-year jail term for participating in a Muslim WhatsApp group.

KAZAKHSTAN: More court-ordered religious literature destruction

In 2020, courts ordered destroyed one Muslim and 196 Christian publications. The owners were each fined one month's average wage. Punishing an individual for importing one religious book ("Selected Hadiths") for personal use is a "clear violation" by the court, a legal specialist noted. "Normally [police] destroy books by putting them in a stove, but I can't say if they've already destroyed the book," the judge told Forum 18.

KAZAKHSTAN: 168 administrative prosecutions in 2019

In 168 known administrative prosecutions in 2019, 141 individuals (1 twice), 2 religious communities and 1 company were punished for worship meetings, offering religious literature and items (including online), sharing or teaching faith, posting religious material online, praying in mosques, inviting a child to meetings, or inadequate security measures. Yet an official claimed "We have no problems in the area of freedom of conscience".

KAZAKHSTAN: 24 prisoners of conscience, 6 restricted freedom sentences

In addition to one Muslim on trial in Almaty, 24 individuals - all Sunni Muslim men - are known to be jailed for exercising freedom of religion or belief. Three Protestants were given jail terms in absentia. A further 6 individuals are serving restricted freedom sentences. A further 15 are under post-jailing bans on specific activity. A further 27 who completed sentences still have their bank accounts blocked.

KAZAKHSTAN: Appeals rejected in absentia

Eight prisoners of conscience have lost their appeals against long jail terms for discussing Islam on a WhatsApp group. Almaty City Court rejected the appeals on 20 November in their absence. Even before the decision came into force, the authorities transferred them to often distant labour camps. One is in a Shymkent camp, where another Muslim was tortured.

KAZAKHSTAN: Imminent prison trial for ailing prisoner

Despite a serious heart condition – possibly needing an operation - Zhuldyzbek Taurbekov's criminal trial begins at Almaty's Investigation Prison No. 18 on 3 December. Eight arrested with him 13 months ago for participating in a WhatsApp group on Islam have already been jailed. Only six people – including only one relative – are allowed to attend the "open" trial.

KAZAKHSTAN: Three pastors' convictions "an unjust court decision"

An Almaty court has jailed three pastors in absentia for between four and five years in a case described by one human rights defender as "complete drivel". New Life Church has been told its problems will end if it pays money to officials or collaborates with the secret police.

KAZAKHSTAN: Years of intrusive questioning

A Muslim complains of six years' intrusive police questioning about his faith: "These are my personal beliefs they are asking about." The Interior Minister denied that police questioned Yerlan – most recently on 20 July - because of his faith. The Interior Ministry says 23,000 are on a register of adherents of "destructive religious movements". Rights defender Yevgeny Zhovtis says no such category exists in law.

KAZAKHSTAN: Officials try to force registration signature withdrawals

Officials harassing founders of religious communities, possibly trying to block applications to exist. In May 2019 police began harassing Oskemen's New Life Church founders as it sought re-registration. Officers visited several late at night, threatening one woman in her late 70s. Aktau's Hare Krishna community has faced similar harassment.

KAZAKHSTAN: Eight jailed for up to eight years

An Almaty Judge jailed eight Muslims for between five and a half and eight years for participating in a WhatsApp religious discussion group which the KNB secret police claimed promoted "propaganda of terrorism" or "inciting hatred". The men denied the charges. The ninth man is due for trial later as he is suffering serious heart problems.

KAZAKHSTAN: Nine years' jail for online discussion group?

Eight Muslims face up to nine years' jailing each for participating in a WhatsApp religious discussion group. The KNB secret police initiated the criminal charges of "propaganda of terrorism" or "inciting hatred", which the defendants deny. The verdict is imminent. The case against the ninth – who is suffering serious heart problems – will be heard at a future trial.

KAZAKHSTAN: 108 administrative prosecutions in January-June 2019 - list

Administrative prosecutions to punish exercising freedom of religion or belief appear to be rising. At least 108 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: Fined for worship, funeral prayer rooms

Bolat Isabayev was fined for leading a home worship meeting 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.

KAZAKHSTAN: "We don't have censorship", but three books banned

Kazakhstan has banned three books by authors associated with the banned Tabligh Jamaat Muslim missionary movement. A Prosecutor's Office official claimed to Forum 18 that the three books include calls to "extremism and terrorism", but neither the court nor "expert analyses" backed this. "We don't have censorship, we just check the content of religious publications," another official claimed.

KAZAKHSTAN: 18 prisoners of conscience, 11 restricted freedom sentences

In addition to one Muslim on trial in Shymkent, 18 individuals are known to be currently jailed for exercising freedom of religion or belief. All are Sunni Muslim men. A further 11 are serving restricted freedom sentences. A further 13 are under post-jailing bans on specific activity. A further 28 who have completed sentences still have their bank accounts blocked.

KAZAKHSTAN: Muslim faces closed trial in Shymkent

If convicted at his closed trial in Shymkent, 41-year-old Muslim Dilmurat Makhamatov faces up to 19 years' imprisonment. Kazakh police claimed he conducted "illegal preaching among Kazakhstanis via the internet" while in Saudi Arabia. After he was forcibly taken to Kazakhstan charges of "inciting religious hatred" and "propaganda of terrorism" were revealed. His friends reject the accusations. The trial resumes on 22 April.

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.

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 fined three Baptists and issued two warnings. Despite claiming "our laws don't ban praying", state religious affairs official Balgabek Myrzayev defended punishing people meeting for worship without state permission. A government minister has claimed that legal changes restricting freedom of religion and belief may be brought back in 2020.

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.

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.

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. The government withdrew proposed further legal freedom of religion and belief restrictions.

KAZAKHSTAN: 171 administrative prosecutions in 2018 - list

Full list of 171 known administrative prosecutions in 2018 to punish exercising freedom of religion or belief. Of these, 143 ended up with punishments, including fines, worship bans, seizures and destruction of religious literature, short-term jail terms and one deportation.

KAZAKHSTAN: 171 known administrative prosecutions in 2018

In 171 known administrative prosecutions in 2018, 143 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.

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.

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".

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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