KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 20.00, 6 December 2001.
Reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in communist
and post-communist lands.
______________________________________

I. RUSSIA: SALVATION ARMY MUST CEASE ITS ACTIVITIES IN
MOSCOW. Colonel Kenneth Baillie, the commanding officer of the
Salvation Army in Russia, has vowed that the group's Moscow branch
will "keep on working" despite the court ruling today (6 December) that it
must cease all its activities in the Russian capital. Speaking to Keston
News Service outside the courtroom in Moscow immediately after the
verdict was handed down, he said he had been hoping that the municipal
court would at least have delayed a final decision in view of the pending
Constitutional Court case, which will consider the constitutionality of
Article 27, Part 4 of Russia's 1997 law on religion. The prosecutors claim
the Salvation Army's Moscow branch had violated this article.

II. UZBEKISTAN: RAMADAN APPEAL FOR MOSQUE
REOPENING REJECTED. A mosque opened in the Uzbek town of
Namangan in the 1980s when religious freedom began to arrive in the
Soviet Union, but closed five years ago by the regional authorities, is still
closed to worshippers, despite repeated attempts by local Muslims to
reopen it and register it officially. Speaking to Keston News Service, the
head of the local mahalla (a small district within a town), who has
blocked the application, dismissed the complaint that the nearest mosque
is four kilometres [two and a half miles] away: "According to Islam, the
more difficulties a person overcomes on their way to God, the better." A
human rights activist told Keston that the refusal to allow the mosque to
reopen is typical. "The authorities are giving the mahalla committees
secret instructions to 'hold back' believers´┐Ż attempts to register a local
mosque," he said.

I. RUSSIA: SALVATION ARMY MUST CEASE ITS ACTIVITIES IN
MOSCOW

by Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service

Colonel Kenneth Baillie, commanding officer of the Salvation Army in
Russia, has vowed that the group's Moscow branch will "keep on
working" despite the court ruling today (6 December) that it must cease
all its activities in the Russian capital. Speaking to Keston News Service
outside the courtroom in Moscow immediately after the verdict was
handed down, he said he had been hoping that the municipal court would
at least have delayed a final decision in view of the pending
Constitutional Court case, which will consider the constitutionality of
Article 27, Part 4 of Russia's 1997 law on religion. The prosecutors claim
the Salvation Army's Moscow branch had violated this article.

The Moscow municipal court upheld the September ruling by Tagansky
district court ordering the withdrawal of legal personality status from the
Moscow branch of the Salvation Army and the cessation of its activities
in the Russian capital (see KNS 5 October 2001). The church's appeal
against the September ruling having thus failed, it will now come into
legal force.

It was on 12 September that Tagansky district court ruled that the
Moscow branch of the Salvation Army should lose its legal personality
status due to its violation of Article 27, Part 4 of the 1997 Russian law on
religion, according to which all religious organisations failing to re-
register by 31 December 2000 are liable to liquidation by court order. The
court also ruled that the church's activities be declared to have ceased due
to a violation of Article 8, Part 9 of the same law, under which a religious
organisation 'is obliged to inform annually the organ registering it of its
activities,' including its location, title and details concerning its leaders.

Addressing three judges in a packed courtroom of no more than eight
square metres, the Salvation Army's defence lawyer, Vladimir
Ryakhovsky of the Moscow-based Slavic Centre for Law and Justice,
today argued that even if it were formally the case that the church had not
re-registered by the 1997 law's deadline of 31 December 2000, it had
been "trying to use all possible methods to comply" ever since the
submission of its finalised re-registration papers to Moscow city justice
department in February 1999. He also reminded the judges that the church
had referred its case to both the Constitutional Court of the Russian
Federation and the European Court of Human Rights.

Addressing the second part of the Tagansky district court ruling,
Ryakhovsky pointed out that, according to Article 8, Part 9 of the 1997
law on religion, the failure of a religious organisation to submit
information regarding its activities annually must be over a three-year
period in order for the registering organ to have grounds to appeal to a
court to declare that it has ceased its activities. Since all the necessary
information was submitted in the church's re-registration application less
than three years ago and as the organisation was clearly still functioning,
argued Ryakhovsky (he showed the judges copies of the branch's
financial accounts for the last three years), Tagansky district court "had
no grounds for ordering that the Salvation Army cease its activities."

No representative from the Moscow city justice department was present at
the hearing.

When the court ruled to reject the church's appeal following a brief
recess, Ryakhovsky branded the decision unlawful: "Why would anyone
want to close down the Salvation Army?' he remarked outside the
courtroom, "Because they feed the homeless? I'm ashamed that this is
happening in my country." (END)

II. UZBEKISTAN: RAMADAN APPEAL FOR MOSQUE
REOPENING REJECTED

by Igor Rotar, Keston News Service

A mosque opened in the Uzbek town of Namangan in the 1980s when
religious freedom began to arrive in the Soviet Union, but closed five
years ago by the regional authorities, is still closed to worshippers,
despite repeated attempts by local Muslims to reopen it and register it
officially. "It is now the holy month of Ramadan, and we have asked
permission to meet at the mosque, even if only during the fast, but we are
not even allowed that," Abdugani Yusupov, a member of the action
committee campaigning for the reopening of the Panjer mosque, told
Keston News Service in Namangan on 26 November. "The nearest
mosque is four kilometres [two and a half miles] away and it is very
difficult for us old people to make such a long journey." However, the
head of the local mahalla (a small district within a town), who has
blocked the application, dismissed the Muslims' appeal. "There's nothing
dreadful in the fact that the nearest mosque to our mahalla is four
kilometres away," Mumir Hajibayev told Keston. "According to Islam,
the more difficulties a person overcomes on their way to God, the better."

Yusupov reported that the Muslims submitted their documents to register
the mosque about two months ago, but have not so far received any reply.
"We are constantly asking the head of the Zarafshan mahalla committee
Mumir Hajibayev when the authorities will at last register our mosque,
and he constantly assures us that it will go through very soon, but we
have now stopped believing him."

The regional centre of Namangan is situated in Uzbekistan's sector of the
Fergana valley. This is not the first time that the authorities have refused
to register small mosques in the mahallas, where mainly elderly people
meet (see KNS 30 August 2001). The Panjer mosque, which can
accommodate up to 500 people, served the town's Zarafshan and Navoi
mahallas until it was closed in 1996 by the Namangan regional
administration. In 1998 a group of believers tried to register the mosque
with the regional administration, but was refused.

"I know nothing about believers' attempts to register the Panjer mosque,"
Rustam Atymyrzayev, chief specialist on issues relating to public
organisations at the Namangan town administration, told Keston on 26
November. "We are simply an intermediate link in the registration of a
mosque. If all the documents are present, we pass them on with our letter
of recommendation to the regional ministry of justice, which decides
whether or not to register the mosque. All the closed mosques have been
transferred into the ownership of the mahalla committees and that is the
place where you are most likely to find answers to the questions that
interest you."

"We do not have very many mosques," Hajibayev told Keston on 26
November. "I am sure that if we open the Panjer mosque, then after
barely a month has gone by no more than five people will be meeting
there."

Gulyam Halmatov, head of the Namangan branch of the Independent
Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, believes the refusal to allow the
Panjer mosque to reopen is typical. "The authorities are giving the
mahalla committees secret instructions to 'hold back' believers' attempts
to register a local mosque," he told Keston on 26 November. "Often, the
mahalla authorities simply deceive the ill-educated elderly people, and do
not even pass on to the city administration the documents necessary for
registration that they have collected." (END)

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