Wednesday 7 October

LUTHERAN MISSION IN KHAKASSIA DEPRIVED OF REGISTRATION



By Tatyana Titova, Keston News Service



As Keston News Service has already reported, the persecution of

the Lutherans in Khakassia by the local procurator has not

stopped. The community led by PASTOR PAVEL ZAYAKIN has already

suffered many attacks. On 3 June Keston News Service reported on

the court examination being prepared for July. The court rejected

the procurator's demands that the community cease its

distribution of religious literature, that its educational and

other programmes be suppressed and that its foreign contacts be

halted. Nevertheless, the subsequent court session went ahead two

months later and ruled that the community be deprived of

registration.



The procurator of Shira district read a statement to the court

calling for points 4-9 of Article 3, Article 8, points 2 and 4

of Article 14, and Article 21 of the statute (`Ustav') of the

Evangelical-Lutheran Mission of the village of Tuim to be ruled

invalid. He argued that `in accordance with point 3 of Article

27 of the Federal law of 26 September 1997 on freedom of

conscience and religious organisations, statutes and other

founding documents of religious organisations established before

the entry into force of the current Law are valid only in those

parts that do not contradict the Law.' The procurator argued that

the points of the Lutherans' statute he cited contradicted the

1997 law as the community did not have documents proving their

existence on the given territory for at least 15 years.



In reply, the representative of the community, V.N. NOSOV,

presented two documents signed by the head of the administration

of the town of Borets and the head of the administration of the

Shira district declaring that the religious organisations had

existed in the town of Borets and in the district since 1972.

Countering the procurator's assertion that the community was

registered as a juridical person only in 1978 and that therefore

the documents had no legal validity, Nosov explained that until

the adoption of the 1990 law on freedom of religious confession,

if registration of religious organisations took place at all it

was only unofficially by the organs of the KGB. Therefore he

doubted whether even the Orthodox Church could provide such

registration documents. The presence of communities of Lutherans

was clearly linked to the resettlement there of a large number

of Volga Germans during the Second World War.



Having heard the arguments of the procurator and the

representative of the Lutheran community and having reviewed the

documents presented, the court ruled: `The application by the

procurator of Shira district to recognise as invalid points 4-9

of Article 3, Article 8, points 2 and 4 of Article 14, and

Article 21 of the statute of the Evangelical-Lutheran Mission of

the village of Tuim is REJECTED.'



However, it was not time for the community to celebrate a

victory. On 10 September Pastor Zayakin received a summons to

appear on 15 September at the Supreme Court of the Republic of

Khakassia `for a conversation'. It was not until Pastor Zayakin

presented himself on that date that it emerged that the procuracy

of the Republic of Khakassia had again filed a suit to have the

state registration of the Lutheran Mission declared invalid.



The regular court session took place on 22 September and ruled

that the registration of the mission was invalid.



An appeal is to be launched to the Supreme Arbitration Court of

the Russian Federation, the court of highest instance. The case

is likely to be heard in two or three months.



Pastor Zayakin told Keston News Service in a telephone

conversation on 24 September that this time the procuracy

contested the central provision of the Evangelical-Lutheran

Mission statute, claiming that 7 of the 10 founders of the

community were not Lutherans. This conclusion was based on

statements which were extracted from members of the parish in the

presence of a policeman and an officer of the Federal Security

Service. 'We said that this was a question of a person's

conscience, in accordance with the constitution. They asked

during the hearing: "What is your confession?". One witness went

pale and fainted, and I was not even allowed to help him.

Witnesses declared: "We will not reply, as it is our own personal

business." The plenipotentiary for religious affairs, NIKOLAI

STEPANOVICH VOLKOV, declared that the Americans were paying us

a wage. People in the court were saying that they had been put

under such pressure that they were afraid. But the judges did not

seem to pay any attention to this.'



Zayakin summed up the feelings of the Lutheran community in the

wake of the court ruling. `We have 100 people, many of them

children. I simply cannot explain in words how painful it is for

us. It is such a trampling of our freedoms and rights! We told

the people: "Don't be afraid. You have the right to choose any

faith."' (END)