KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 11.00, 12 November 2001.
Reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in communist
and post-communist lands.
______________________________________

I. KAZAKHSTAN: FIVE-DAY PRISON SPELL FOR BAPTIST
PASTOR. A Baptist pastor, Valery Pak, fined last spring for refusing to
register his church with the authorities, was punished in October with a
five-day spell in prison, Keston News Service has learnt. Although
Kazakhstan's religion law does not require religious groups to register to
be allowed to function, prosecutors are increasingly relying on an article
of the administrative code introduced last year which renders the activity
of unregistered religious organisations liable to punishment. Two other
Baptist pastors are known to be facing charges for leading unregistered
churches.

II. KAZAKHSTAN: BAPTIST BEATEN BUT POLICE DENY IT.
According to local Baptist sources, Asylbek Nurdanov was severely
assaulted and threatened at his local police station on 27 October in the
town of Kazalinsk in Kyzyl-Orda region close to the Aral Sea in southern
Kazakhstan. One officer threatened to cut his tongue out with scissors if
he did not renounce his faith. The local police chief admitted to Keston
News Service that the church had been searched and Nurdanov
questioned, but denied absolutely that he had been beaten or threatened,
accusing him of lying. In an echo of similar moves elsewhere against
unregistered Baptist churches in Kazakhstan (see separate KNS article),
the police chief claimed that the Kazalinsk church was functioning
illegally as it does not have registration.

I. KAZAKHSTAN: FIVE-DAY PRISON SPELL FOR BAPTIST
PASTOR

by Igor Rotar, Keston News Service

A Baptist pastor, Valery Pak, fined last spring for refusing to register his
church with the authorities, was punished in October with a five-day spell
in prison, Keston News Service has learnt. Although Kazakhstan's
religion law does not require religious groups to register to be allowed to
function, prosecutors are increasingly relying on an article of the
administrative code introduced last year which renders the activity of
unregistered religious organisations liable to punishment. Two other
Baptist pastors are known to be facing charges for leading unregistered
churches.

All three Baptist churches belong to the Council of Churches of
Evangelical Christians/Baptists, which has a policy of not seeking or
accepting registration in all the former Soviet republics where it is active.

The city court in Kyzyl Orda fined Pastor Pak 7,700 tenge (50 dollars or
35 pounds) last spring for "evading the registration of a religious
community" and ordered him to halt the church's activity for a period of
up to six months. "Pak refused to pay the fine, out of disagreement with
the authorities' decision, and the church continued to meet for worship,"
local Baptists reported. "On 9 October, judge S. Jallasbayev and
Procurator I. Omatov decided (based on article 524 of the Administrative
Code): for evading required regulations and the court decision, to subject
Valery Pak to an arrest of five days, which he spent in the prison
detention cell in the town of Kyzyl Orda."

On 8 November, Keston telephoned Terek Shotayev, the public
prosecutor of the department for monitoring the activity of state agencies,
at the public prosecutor's office in Kyzyl Orda region. Asked to comment
on why Pastor Pak had been subjected to legal proceedings even though
according to Kazakhstan's religion law the registration of religious
associations was not compulsory, Shotayev responded: "It's true that,
according to Kazakhstan's constitution and the law on freedom of
conscience and religious associations, registration is not compulsory. The
issue of state sanctions against religious communities that refuse to go
through the registration process is constantly being raised by defenders of
human rights. But we must not forget the complex situation in
Kazakhstan, where religious extremists hold quite a strong position.� He
particularly referred to the �Wahhabis�. Although technically this refers
to the form of Islam found in Saudi Arabia, the term is widely used in
Central Asia to decribe Islamic extremists, as well as Muslims who
simply operate outside state control. �So we need to take measures
against religious communities that refuse to go through the registration
process. There are legal grounds for us to do so. Thus, for example, last
year in Article 374 of the administrative code, a special amendment was
introduced which stipulated that the activity of an unregistered religious
organisation was legally accountable."

Local Baptists also reported that on 25 September the public prosecutor in
Aktobe in north-western Kazakhstan, A.K. Saginbazarov, opened a case
against Pastor Vasily Kliver under the administrative code "for persistent
evasion by V. D. Kliver of the registration of a religious community".
Kliver had been given an official warning for this on 30 May.

In a further case cited by local Baptists, a local official in the town of
Ayagurz in the Eastern Kazakhstan region summoned Pastor Pavel
Leonov to inform him that three days earlier the district public prosecutor,
B.K. Eskermesov, had instituted a case against him under Article 362 part
1 of the criminal code for refusing to carry out a court order. This was the
latest move in a long-running campaign initiated by the prosecutor's
office to force the church to register. "After being summoned several
times to the prosecutor's office, I was ordered to register the church,"
Leonov recalled. "We refused, and our case was forwarded to court. On
21 September 2000 the court issued a verdict: to halt the church's activity
until the registration process is completed with the Ministry of Justice.
We continued to assemble for worship, while the bailiff twice mailed us a
warning letter."

"There is a campaign now under way in Kazakhstan to pursue
unregistered religious associations," a specialist on the activity of
religious associations, the Almaty-based lawyer Roman Podoprigora, told
Keston by telephone on 8 November. Yet he did not want to dramatise the
situation: "The authorities undertake this sort of action every couple of
months. As soon as the investigation is concluded, the believers are left in
peace until the next inspection."

However, several western experts, who asked to remain anonymous, were
inclined to think that the current investigation into religious associations
was not random, and that after the 11 September terrorist attacks in the
United States, the Kazakh government wanted to toughen up its policy
towards believers.

"It's hard to say yet how the 11 September events in the US will affect the
situation of believers in Kazakhstan," Birgit Kainz, human rights officer
at the Almaty OSCE office, told Keston by telephone on 9 November.
"So far, we have only heard about one example: the Kazakh authorities
want to tighten up the existing religion law." (END)

II. KAZAKHSTAN: BAPTIST BEATEN BUT POLICE DENY IT

by Igor Rotar, Keston News Service

According to local Baptist sources, Asylbek Nurdanov was severely
assaulted and threatened at his local police station on 27 October in the
town of Kazalinsk in Kyzyl-Orda region close to the Aral Sea in southern
Kazakhstan. One officer threatened to cut his tongue out with scissors if
he did not renounce his faith. The local police chief admitted to Keston
News Service that the church had been searched and Nurdanov
questioned, but denied absolutely that he had been beaten or threatened,
accusing him of lying. In an echo of similar moves elsewhere against
unregistered Baptist churches in Kazakhstan (see separate KNS article),
the police chief claimed that the Kazalinsk church was functioning
illegally as it does not have registration.

Nurdanov's congregation belongs to the Council of Churches of
Evangelical Christians/Baptists, which has a policy of not seeking or
accepting registration in all the former Soviet republics where it is active.

"On 26 October at approximately 10pm [four] officials (two in civilian
clothes and two in uniform), came to the church building where our
fellow believer, brother Asylbek Nurdanov, was present at the time,"
local Baptists reported in a 3 November statement. "They conducted a
search, and confiscated all the religious literature. They also ordered
Asylbek to appear the following day at the police station, at room 34.
There were several men inside this room, they were asking questions. A
short while later a police major, Asanjan Eshniyazov, entered the room,
approached Asylbek from behind and struck him on the head. Asylbek
lost consciousness. They picked him up and began beating him. The same
police major, pulling out a knife, began to threaten him. Afterwards, they
undressed the believer. Kanat Oremuratov (in civilian clothes) tried
strangling Asylbek with a belt. Then they pulled out a pair of scissors and
threatened to cut off his tongue if he did not renounce Jesus Christ."
Nurdanov refused to renounce his faith.

"We know nothing about this incident. Asylbek Nurdanov did not appeal
to the public prosecutor's office, or we would have already known about
this and could have launched a thorough investigation," the public
prosecutor of Kazalinsk district, Ertel Jalgasbayev, told Keston on 9
November.

"Nurdanov is an absolute liar. No-one beat him and no-one threatened
him," the chief of police in the town of Kazalinsk, Toistebek Musabayev,
told Keston by telephone on 9 November. When speaking to Keston
Musabeyev frequently used Russian swear words. For example, instead of
the word "lie" he used a coarse equivalent.

Musabayev did not deny that police colleagues had carried out a search at
the church, or that they had later questioned Nurdanov at the police
station. "Nurdanov was delivering a sermon in an unregistered church.
This bum (he didn't even have a passport) was carrying out a campaign
among children," he told Keston. "All that is illegal, and we forced him to
stop what he was doing. And after that he started to write slanders against
us at every opportunity. Then we interviewed Nurdanov again and he
admitted (we recorded this on video) that no-one had beaten him or
threatened him." (END)

Copyright (c) 2001 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.