KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 20.00, 11 April 2001

RUSSIA: MUSLIM ORGANISATIONS OFFICIALLY LIQUIDATED;
JEHOVAH�S WITNESSES APPEAL. District courts in the North
Caucasus republic of Kabardino-Balkaria have officially disbanded 37
Muslim religious organisations which failed to submit re-registration
documents to the justice authorities by 31 December 2000 (See KNS 24
January 2001), Keston News Service has learned. The groups continue to
function, without registration. Meanwhile three Jehovah�s Witness
congregations have appealed against the refusal to re-register them.

RUSSIA: MUSLIM ORGANISATIONS OFFICIALLY LIQUIDATED;
JEHOVAH�S WITNESSES APPEAL

by Tatyana Titova, Keston News Service

District courts in the North Caucasus republic of Kabardino-Balkaria
have officially disbanded 37 Muslim religious organisations which failed
to submit re-registration documents, although the groups continue to
function without registration. Meanwhile three Jehovah�s Witness
congregations have appealed against the refusal to re-register them.
Keston News Service contacted officials and religious leaders in the
republic to find out the result of court cases against religious
organisations which failed to re-register with the justice authorities by the
deadline of 31 December 2000 (See KNS 24 January 2001)

Yelena Uzbiyeva, the official supervising the registration of religious
organisations at the Kabardino-Balkaria Ministry of Justice, told Keston
on 12 March that all of the Ministry of Justice�s court actions to close
down Muslim religious organisations had been successful and they had
all been disbanded, adding that all the actions �were agreed with the
Muslim Spiritual Administration�. The Muslim Spiritual Administration
of Kabardino-Balkaria told Keston on 3 April that the congregations that
had been officially closed were those that had not even attempted to re-
register, probably because they did not understand what was required,
despite the model statutes circulated to them. �It was difficult for their
heads even to read these statutes. However, the congregations in these
places exist and are functioning,� said Mufti Shafig Pshikhachev�s
deputy.

Uzbiyeva said that the Jehovah�s Witnesses had appealed against the
refusal to re-register their three congregations and the case would go
before the republic�s Supreme Court. However Artur Leontyev, the legal
specialist of the Jehovah�s Witnesses Administration Centre in St
Petersburg, told Keston on 5 April that the Supreme Court had refused to
accept the cases and that the hearing would take place in the district court
of the republican capital Nalchik on 12 April.

Leontyev also said that the prosecutor in the town of Maisky had
requested that the 2 April court hearing to rule on the closure of the local
congregation be deferred, in order to allow a more thorough study of
Jehovah�s Witness literature. A similar application was made by the
Maisky prosecutor in 1998 but then withdrawn. In the town of
Prokhladny the prosecutor has applied for the closure of the congregation
there; the date set for the court hearing is 17 April.

The Kabardino-Balkarian authorities seem set against the Jehovah�s
Witnesses. Yaroslav Sivulsky, press secretary of the Jehovah�s Witness
St Petersburg Administration Centre, told Keston on 5 April that the
Jehovah�s Witnesses had been told in 1998 at the Ministry of Justice of
Kabardino-Balkaria: �Bring us a court decision obliging us to register
your congregations and then we�ll do it. So far not a single judge has
taken it upon himself to examine this case.�

Khazmurat Yeziyev, the head of the Commission of the government of
the republic of Kabardino-Balkaria for the affairs of religious
associations, told Keston that the Jehovah�s Witnesses would not be
registered since they �go round the houses and agitate�, which in his view
puts their lives at risk in a republic with a predominantly Muslim
population (END).

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