MOLDOVA: Fined for Door-to-Door Preaching

Felix Corley, Keston News Service, 21 June 2002

In a move that Jehovah's Witness leaders in Moldova say is a first in recent years, one of their members has been fined for door to door preaching. Igor Danile, from the town of Glodeni in north western Moldova close to the border with Romania, this week paid the fine of 360 lei (27 US dollars, 28 Euros or 18 British pounds), equal to twenty months' minimum wage, imposed by a court last March. "The penalty was imposed for preaching from door to door," Ion Rusu, a Jehovah's Witness leader in the capital Chisinau, told Keston News Service by telephone on 20 June.

Danile was charged under Article 200, part 3 of the administrative code, which punishes "the carrying out in the name of a registered or unregistered faith or in one's own name of customs and rites that violate current law" with a fine of between ten to twenty months' minimum wage. Danile was found guilty by the city court in Glodeni on 26 March and fined the maximum under the article. He took his case to appeal, but a hearing on 15 May upheld the original ruling.

Rusu rejects the basis of the charges. "Danile was not charged according to the provisions of the article," he told Keston. "There was nothing wrong in what he did."

Sergei Yatsko, chairman of the State Service for the Affairs of Cults, declined to comment on the fine. "I can't comment on a court decision. Those who handed down the sentence are responsible for it," he told Keston by telephone from Chisinau on 21 June. He said he had only just learned of the case from Rusu two days earlier, when Rusu had visited him in his office to discuss the case and the issue of door to door preaching.

Asked whether door to door preaching was allowed or forbidden in Moldova, Yatsko declared: "You have to look at each individual case. According to the law, you can't preach just anywhere. You can preach in your home, in a place of worship or in certain other places with the permission of the authorities."

Article 200 of the administrative code also punishes the use of force in making someone attend or not attend religious services, promotion of religious intolerance which prevents a legally-recognised faith from carrying out its activity freely, violation by priests of the secrecy of the confessional, the organisation of political parties on a faith basis, and inviting foreign citizens to conduct religious activity without permission from the "public authorities". (END)