KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 11.00, 6 December 2001.
Reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in communist
and post-communist lands.
______________________________________

I. KYRGYZSTAN: "UNLAWFUL" BAN ON AMPLIFIED CALL TO
PRAYER. The authorities in Kyrgyzstan's southern Jalal-abad region
have banned the reading of the call to prayer via loudspeakers, the local
Muslim leader, Dilmurat Haji Orozov, told Keston News Service on 28
November. A phone call to the government�s commission for religious
affairs established that the ban was unlawful, but the authorities are still
enforcing it, Orozov complained. The local religious affairs official told
Keston that the ban was imposed to protect the rights of non-Muslims,
pointing out that people of all faiths had been woken up early in the
morning by the amplified calls to prayer. An expert on religious issues at
a Jalal-abad human rights organisation believes that the ban is
symptomatic of a new policy adopted by the authorities: "Repression of
Muslims who refuse to follow the instructions of the secular authorities
has increased."

II. RUSSIA: CHALLENGE TO REGIONAL MISSIONARY LAW
FAILS. Despite strong criticism from religious minorities, a law which
controls missionary activity, adopted in Russia's southern Belgorod
region in January, remains all but unchanged after a legal challenge
failed. Belgorod's public prosecutor had protested against the failure by
the region's court to overturn parts of the local law, but on 3 December
the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation rejected his protest. He was
not present at the Supreme Court hearing; in his place was a justice
adviser from the general public prosecutor� office, who sided with his
opponents and declared that the protest emanated from "incorrect
interpretation of federal law."

I. KYRGYZSTAN: "UNLAWFUL" BAN ON AMPLIFIED CALL TO
PRAYER

by Igor Rotar, Keston News Service

The authorities in Kyrgyzstan's Jalal-abad region have banned the reading
of the call to prayer via loudspeakers, the local Muslim leader told Keston
News Service on 28 November. According to Dilmurat Haji Orozov, kazi
(head of the spiritual administration of Muslims) in Jalal-abad region,
workers at the kaziat telephoned the government's commission for
religious affairs and established that the order from the regional
authorities to stop reading the call to prayer via loudspeakers was
unlawful. However, the regional authorities are still enforcing their ban,
Orozov complained. The local religious affairs official told Keston in the
town of Jalal-abad that the ban was imposed to protect the rights of non-
Muslims, pointing out that people of all faiths had been woken up early in
the morning by the amplified calls to prayer.

Jalal-abad region is in southern Kyrgyzstan, bordering Uzbekistan, and
about one third of the population in the region is ethnic Uzbek. Speaking
to Keston on 19 September in the town of Osh, Kathleen Samuel of the
local office of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe
said that infringements of believers' rights in southern Kyrgyzstan occur
most frequently in Jalal-abad region. Earlier this year the authorities
removed from office an imam of Bozor-Kurgan district whom they did
not like and appointed another imam in his place (see KNS 24 September
2001).

"We don't deny that we advised the kaziat to stop reading the call to
prayer via loudspeakers," Ergesh Ormonov, head of the commission for
religious affairs for Jalal-abad region, told Keston on 28 November.
"Jalal-abad region is not inhabited solely by Muslims, and we must not
forget the rights of representatives of other faiths. The first call to Islamic
prayer is made early in the morning and wakes up not only Muslims, but
also representatives of other faiths."

However, Abdumalik Sharipov, an expert on religious issues at the Jalal-
abad human rights organisation Justice, believes that the ban on the use of
loudspeakers is symptomatic of a new policy adopted by the authorities
towards Muslims. "Since the terrorist attacks in the United States on 11
September, the authorities have been trying to assert their control over the
activity of Islamic organisations," he told Keston in Jalal-abad on 28
November. "Repression of Muslims who refuse to follow the instructions
of the secular authorities has increased. For example, members of the
Hizb-ut-Tahrir party, which is banned in Kyrgyzstan, are now being given
longer periods of imprisonment." (END)

II. RUSSIA: CHALLENGE TO REGIONAL MISSIONARY LAW
FAILS

by Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service

Despite strong criticism from religious minorities, a law which controls
missionary activity, adopted in Russia's southern Belgorod region in
January (see KNS 31 May 2001) remains all but unchanged after a legal
challenge failed.

The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation on 3 December rejected a
protest by Belgorod's public prosecutor against the failure by that region's
court to overturn parts of a local law regulating missionary activity.

Public Prosecutor Pavel Kondrashov's first protest against the law, which
was signed by governor Yevgeni Savchenko on 19 March, came on 18
May, when he sent a formal protest to Belgorod's regional duma
(parliament) disputing four of its provisions as contradicting federal law:
Parts 1, 6, and 7 of Article 3, and Article 4.

These stipulate respectively that 1) missionary activity is the right of
certified representatives of a religious organisation; 2) residents of other
Russian regions intending to carry out missionary activity in Belgorod
must submit to the local authorities a document confirming their
affiliation to a particular religious organisation, a copy of their invitation
to the region, an itinerary of their stay, and proof of local registration; 3)
foreign citizens are prohibited from conducting missionary activity if they
have come to Belgorod for a different reason; and 4) those violating the
law face a fine of between 50 and 100 times the minimum wage and the
cessation of their missionary activity for repeated violations.

Subsequent to the Belgorod duma's rejection of this protest by an official
decree dated 10 July, the case was considered by Belgorod's regional
court. On 21 August its judge, Vera Motlokhova, ruled that only one
provision be struck down - the second part of Article 4, which states that
repeated violations incur a ban. At no stage were other aspects of the law
considered, such as the broad definition of the activity subject to
regulation ("the direct or indirect dissemination of doctrines and religious
practices: among those of another faith or nonbelievers" (Article 2, Part
1), or the requirement for the written permission of parents or guardians
in order to carry out such activity among minors (Article 3, Part 4).

At the 3 December Supreme Court hearing observed by Keston News
Service, representatives of Belgorod administration, the Russian
Orthodox diocese of Belgorod and Stary Oskol and the regional duma
were called to cite their reasons for opposing Public Prosecutor
Kondrashov's protest. All three � Dmitry Zavidov, Vladimir Lukin and
Oleg Uskov respectively - pointed out that the rights to distribute
literature and conduct rites in particular locations are given to religious
organisations by the 1997 federal law on religion (Articles 16 and 17). As
a result, they argued, anyone engaging in such activity must provide
documentation proving affiliation to a religious organisation. Zavidov
stressed that the local missionary law "does not prohibit anything � it only
creates order," while both Uskov and Lukin maintained that its disputed
provisions in fact protected the rights of religious organisations, since
they prevented "imposters standing in their name."

The two Supreme Court judges who spoke cut short the three
representatives' attempts to explain the reasons for the adoption of the
law, criticised its broad definition of missionary activity and the fact that
the working group which drew it up was composed solely of
representatives from Belgorod's department of justice, regional
administration and Russian Orthodox diocese, and not representatives of
other religious confessions.

While Yelena Lazareva of Belgorod's department of justice had appeared
alongside these same three representatives at the 21 August regional court
hearing, no department of justice representative was present at the
Supreme Court on 3 December. At the regional court hearing Lazareva
had agreed with Public Prosecutor Kondrashov that the disputed
provisions of the missionary law ran "counter to federal law and restrict
the rights of citizens to freedom of conscience."

Also absent from the 3 December Supreme Court hearing was Public
Prosecutor Kondrashov himself, in whose stead appeared Marina
Germasheva, a justice adviser from the office of the general public
prosecutor. Germasheva supported the argument of the opponents of the
Belgorod public prosecutor's protest that, since dictionary definitions
defined a missionary as "one who is sent", missionaries must act on
behalf of the religious organisations who sent them and produce
documentation to prove it. The Belgorod public prosecutor's protest, she
declared, emanated from "incorrect interpretation of federal law."

Speaking to Keston by telephone on 5 December, Gyulnara Aliyeva of
Belgorod's department of justice stated that although her department had
received prior announcement of the Supreme Court hearing, it was not
obliged to send a representative.

Also speaking to Keston from Belgorod on 5 December, public
prosecutor's office official Eduard Kremnyov said that it was normal
practice for the general public prosecutor's office to represent a regional
public prosecutor at the Supreme Court. This representative was bound to
make decisions "on the basis of the law," he said, and so could put
forward an opinion different from that of the regional public prosecutor
being represented. (END)

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