Tuesday 16 March
KAZAKH PROCURACY HARASSES JEHOVAH'S WITNESS COMMUNITIES
by Felix Corley, Keston News Service
In what is being regarded as a surprise move, the Kazakh procuracy
staged a series of raids on six Jehovah's Witness communities between
9 and 13 March. The ostensible aim of the raids was to verify that
the activity of the communities - all of which have state
registration - was in accordance with the law.
The most serious case took place in the town of Taraz on 11 March.
The local regional procurator, backed by a uniformed officer of the
security police (the KNB), raided the Kingdom Hall, the Jehovah's
Witness place of worship. They showed a Witness an instruction from
the General Procuracy which announced that they had been instructed
by the procuracy and the KNB to check up on the activity of
`Wahhabis, Jehovah's Witnesses, and sects similar to them'.
The two officials then demanded to see copies of correspondence
between local Jehovah's Witness communities and the group's
registered headquarters, the community's registration documentation,
and records of religious meetings. Two Jehovah's Witnesses, FARID
AKCHURIN and ANDREI NEDADAYEV, were verbally invited to the regional
Similar raids took place in Kaskalen and Yesik on 9 March, and in
Baltabai and Novoalekseyevka on 10 March. Procuracy officials had
summoned members of these communities and required them to write
statements about the aims of their communities' activities, methods
of confession, attitude to medical treatment, service in the army and
The Jehovah's Witnesses point out that these raids violated the
constitutional guarantee protecting social organisations from illegal
interference from the state and a 1995 presidential decree which
declared: `The procuracy does not interfere in the activity of
`One should note that this is the first case of illegal actions
against the Jehovah's Witnesses on the part of the authorities since
the proclamation by Kazakhstan of democratic principles,' the Kazakh
Jehovah's Witnesses said in a statement read out at a seminar on the
proposed new religion law held in Almaty on 13 March. `One would like
to believe that this is the last.'
However, the Jehovah's Witness representatives at the Almaty meeting
noted that they had received that morning news of a further raid on
one of their communities in Kazakhstan.
The Jehovah's Witnesses have had problems related to their members'
refusal to perform military service, and up to the mid-1990s there
was an average of about five Witnesses in prison at any one time for
refusing compulsory call-up. However, two years ago the group reached
an agreement with the government that young men would be given a
certificate by the St Petersburg Jehovah's Witness headquarters that
they were `religious ministers', thus exempting them from military
service. Since then, no Jehovah's Witnesses have faced charges for
refusing military service.
However, these raids and especially the interest in the Jehovah's
Witnesses' views on medicine (the group rejects blood transfusions),
military service and confession show a disturbing trend. Under the
controversial draft law on freedom of religious confession and
religious organisations drawn up by the Ministry of Information last
December (and since withdrawn), these were the type of subjects
religious groups would have had to reveal their views on at the time
of applying for registration, with the threat that registration might
be denied if the authorities did not like the responses. (END)