KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 11.00, 17 August 2001.
Reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in communist
and post-communist lands.
______________________________________

I. RUSSIA: ARE JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES TERRORIST
TARGETS? Keston has found that a local authority in Stavropol
province has issued instructions banning a Jehovah's Witness congress
due to be held on two weekends this month 'due to the threat of terrorist
acts'. The congress was to take place in the Jehovah's Witnesses own
building, so they are appealing against it in court. Last year the same
local authority banned a similar Jehovah's Witness congress.

II. UKRAINE: RETURN OF RELIGIOUS BUILDINGS TO
KARAITES EXPECTED. The Crimean authorities have decided to
return kenassahs � Karaite religious buildings � to them. The Karaites are
an offshoot of Judaism, who are not ethnically Jewish but are Tatar and
recognise only the Torah. The Karaites have for a long time been trying
to reclaim these buildings. The responsible official declined to give
Keston News Service any details, but confirmed that two kenessahs
would be returned to the 'Karaite Spiritual Administration'.

I. RUSSIA: ARE JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES TERRORIST
TARGETS?

by Tatyana Titova, Keston News Service

The head of the municipality of Nezlobinskaya in the Georgievsky
district of Stavropol province has issued a written instruction banning a
Jehovah's Witness congress which was due to be held on 18-19 and 25-
26 August 'due to the threat of terrorist acts'. The congress was to take
place in the Jehovah's Witnesses own building, so they consider the
instruction to be illegal and intend to appeal against it in court.

According to Vyacheslav Mayatsky of the Jehovah's Witnesses'
Administrative Centre in St Petersburg, speaking to Keston on 15
August, the congregation in Nezlobinskaya has 500 members out of a
total population of 20,000. It owns a building in which religious events
are held all the time.

The congress had been planned for the weekends of 18-19 and 25-26
August and about 2000 participants were expected from surrounding
villages. As requested, the Jehovah's Witnesses informed the local
authorities about the planned event, but suddenly and unexpectedly
received the order from the head of the municipality Anatoli Lisov
banning the congress 'due to the increased crime situation and the threat
of terrorist acts'.

According to Artur Leontiev, the legal expert at the Jehovah's Witnesses
Administrative Centre in St Petersburg, the local authorities have no right
to prevent religious events held in a religious organisation's own
premises licensed for such purposes. Asked by Keston what, in his view,
lay behind the ban, Mayatsky said that the local authorities had been
influenced by nationalist organisations such as 'Russian National Unity'
and 'Renaissance' and also by the Cossacks. Mayatsky told Keston that
Lisov had himself told him that the crime rate in the district was lower
than in other places and that there had never been any acts of terrorism.

Keston was unable to contact the local authority in Nezlobinskaya
because of poor telephone communications. When Mayatsky met the
police chief of Georgievsky district, Lieutenant-Colonel Mikhail Klimov,
on 15 August, Klimov told him that he considered himself bound by the
order and intended to do everything possible to prevent the congress
taking place. Despite this, the Jehovah's Witnesses were not cancelling
their plans, Mayatsky told Keston, and were planning to appeal against
the local authority's actions in court.

In 2000 the holding of a Jehovah's Witness congress in the nearby town
of Georgievsk was also prevented by the local authority. Mayatsky said
that on that occasion the organisation had signed a contract with the local
stadium, but the day before the start of the congress the head of the local
authority had issued an instruction banning the congress and ordered law
enforcement agencies to enforce the ban. According to Mayatsky the
stadium had been surrounded by Cossacks and members of the nationalist
organisation 'Russian National Unity'. Orthodox clergy were also present
and the Jehovah's Witnesses were prevented from entering the stadium.
The police did not intervene. (END)

II. UKRAINE: RETURN OF RELIGIOUS BUILDINGS TO
KARAITES EXPECTED

by Anna Vasilieva, Keston News Service

After the events of 25 July at the Uspensky monastery in Bakhchiserai
(see KNS 13 August 2001), the Crimean authorities have decided to
return kenassahs � Karaite religious buildings � to the Karaites, who have
for a long time been trying to reclaim them. The responsible official told
Keston that the resolution to this effect is only in draft form, and declined
to give any details, but confirmed that the buildings of two kenassahs in
the Bakhchiserai historical reservation would be returned to the 'Karaite
Spiritual Administration'.

The Karaites are an offshoot of Judaism, who are not ethnically Jewish
but are Tatar and recognise only the Torah. They are a historic religion of
the Crimean peninsula, numbering today about 800 believers in the
peninsula. For two years they have been trying to secure the return of the
Karaite kenassahs on Chufut Kale, a mountain plateau close to the
Maryam-Dere valley where the Uspensky monastery and the Zynjryly
medresseh are situated (see KNS 16 May 2000).

According to the minutes of the 26 July session of the Crimean
government after the clashes of Crimean Tatars with the OMON riot
police on 25 July, the chairman of the Committee for Religious Affairs of
Crimea, Vladimir Maliborsky, and V. Ormeli were instructed to draft a
decree of the Council of Ministers 'On making the former Karaite
kenassahs available for use to the Karaite Spiritual Administation'.

'Two kenassahs will be returned,' Maliborsky told Keston from
Simferopol in a telephone interview on 15 August. 'The form of transfer
has not yet been determined,' he added, declining to state the form of
ownership under which the buildings will be made available, since, as he
said, 'the decision is still being worked on'.

Although the congregational chairman Aleksandr Babajan complained to
Keston in April 2000 that believers attending worship had been charged
for entry to the reservation, Maliborsky suggested that this was a
'misunderstanding' and stated that 'everything is provided free to the
believers'.

According to Babajan none of the buildings has been returned to the
ownership of the believers. The provisions of current legislation on
religion leave it to the discretion of the local authorities to decide how to
implement the return of religious buildings � either transferring
ownership or making them available for use.

In the event of the kenassahs in the Bakhchiserai district being returned,
the religious practice of the three religions historically present in the
district � the Karaite faith, Orthodoxy and Islam � will be revived side by
side. The fate of the kenassah in Simferopol remains unclear. This
historic building is occupied by the state radio committee and is
gradually disintegrating for lack of funds. (END)

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