KAZAKHSTAN: Court Orders Deportation of Krishna Devotees.

Igor Rotar, Keston News Service, 11 June 2002

Five members of a Hare Krishna commune in Karasai district close to Kazakhstan's former capital Almaty face deportation and more deportations could follow, members of the Krishna community have complained to Keston News Service. "As of today five members of the commune have been ordered by the local court to be deported from Kazakhstan and fined 100 dollars for violation of the rules on registration," a member of Kazakhstan's Hare Krishna community, Dmitri Dolgikh, told Keston by telephone on 6 June. "The five have already received deportation orders and it is possible the same fate awaits other of our fellow-believers." However, local officials have insisted to Keston that the five violated laws on registration of foreign citizens.

On 25 March, 15 citizens of other CIS republics living on the farm went to the town of Kaskalen (the regional centre of Karasai district) to extend their temporary registration (Kazakh law requires citizens from other CIS countries visiting Kazakhstan to register with the police). However, senior officials at the Karasai district administration for internal affairs seized their passports and threatened that they would hand their passports over to the court, initiate a legal case against them and expel them from Kazakhstan (see KNS 16 May 2002).

"Those 15 persons whose passports were confiscated had come to extend their temporary registration without any delay or legal infringement," Dolgikh insisted. "Therefore we considered the police action illegal and wrote a complaint to the Karasai district prosecutor's office. However, we were unable to secure justice." He reported that the police have returned the passport of only one of the 15 devotees. The other 14 passports are still being held at the police department.

"The Krishna devotees violated several Kazakh laws," Yesen Ustelbaev, assistant prosecutor of Karasai district, told Keston by telephone on 6 June. "For example, the Krishna commune was registered in Almaty and the Krishna devotees should have registered there and not in Karasai district. Furthermore, Krishna devotees who are not citizens of Kazakhstan worked on the farm and the law requires foreigners to obtain special work permits. The Krishna devotees did not have permits."

Karasai district judge Zageildy Baigazhaev told Keston by telephone the same day that the deportation order against the Krishna devotees was issued under article 394 of the administrative code, which covers "violation of the rules of registration of foreigners and persons without citizenship and of the rules of residence in Kazakhstan". "No one is intending to infringe the rights of the Krishna devotees," he insisted. "We study carefully all cases involving Krishna devotees." He pointed out that the court has yet to reach a decision in the cases of the majority of the Krishna devotees accused of violating the rules on registration. "We sent a letter to the migration police in order to clarify whether the Krishna devotees had really violated the registration rules."

"We are as yet unable to say definitely whether or not the Krishna devotees have broken the law," Birgit Kainz, the human rights officer at the mission in Almaty of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, told Keston by telephone on 6 June. "However, there have been instances when members of religious communities have broken Kazakh law without being aware of it."

The Hare Krishna commune in Karasai district has existed since the beginning of 1999, when three Krishna devotees bought and registered a farm. Several dozen Krishna devotees, not only citizens of Kazakhstan but also citizens of other CIS countries, live and work on the farm. (END)