KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 20.00, 5 July 2001.=20
Reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in communist=20
and post-communist lands.
______________________________________

I. RUSSIA: MONDAY HEARING FOR SALVATION ARMY=20
LIQUIDATION. The Moscow branch of the Salvation Army was shocked to=20
be given only six days to prepare its defence against moves for its
liquidation=20
in court. The hearing is scheduled for 9 July, and the branch was only=20
informed on 3 July. Its lawyers are seeking an adjournment to gain more=20
time to prepare their case. They have also lodged a case against the
refusal to=20
re-register the branch at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg,=
=20
describing it as =91a scandalous infringement of rights=92.=20

II.UZBEKISTAN: BAPTIST PASTOR `FACES EIGHT-YEAR=20
SENTENCE' Just days after charges against nine members of the=20
unregistered Bethany Baptist church in the Uzbek capital Tashkent were=20
suddenly dropped (see KNS 29 June 2001), the head of the local mahalla=20
(district administration) has told the church's pastor Nikolai Shevchenko
that=20
he faces an eight-year prison term for leading the church. =91Someone=20
powerful - in the mahalla, the procuracy or the SNB [the Uzbek successor to=
=20
the KGB] or somewhere else - is against our church,=92 Shevchenko told=20
Keston.=20

I. RUSSIA: MONDAY HEARING FOR SALVATION ARMY=20
LIQUIDATION

by Tatyana Titova, Keston News Service

The Moscow branch of the Salvation Army was shocked and saddened to=20
find that it was given only six days to prepare its defence against moves=
for=20
its liquidation in court, two of which fall at the weekend. The branch was=
=20
informed on 3 July of the hearing scheduled for 9 July in the Tagansky=20
district court in the Central Administrative district of the capital.
Vladimir=20
Zhbankov, the deputy head of the Main Administration of the Ministry of=20
Justice for Moscow city which has instituted the liquidation suit, told
Keston=20
News Service on 4 July that they had not warned the Salvation Army about=20
the suit because it `wasn't our problem' and that the person responsible
for it=20
was the judge presiding over the case.

The Salvation Army is to be defended in court by the Moscow-based Slavic=20
Centre for Law and Justice, whose lawyers Anatoli Pchelintsev and Vladimir=
=20
Ryakhovsky are seeking an adjournment of the hearing to gain more time to=20
prepare their case.

Zhbankov confirmed to Keston that the Main Administration instituted the=20
liquidation suit because the Moscow branch of the Salvation Army had not=20
achieved the required re-registration with the state under the 1997 religion=
=20
law by the extended deadline of 31 December 2000. The suit was signed by=20
A. Buksman, the head of the Main Administration, on 29 May, the day after=20
the Slavic Centre for Law and Justice lodged a case against the refusal to=
re-
register the branch at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Pchelintsev told Keston on 4 July that, besides its failure to be
re-registered,=20
the suit cites another reason for liquidation: the Salvation Army branch did=
=20
not provide annual information to the registration agency about its
activities.=20
Article 8, point 9 of the religion law states that each year a religious=20
organisation must tell the agency that registered it about its continuing=20
activity and `a failure to supply the information required over a period of=
=20
three years will be grounds for an appeal by the registration agency to the=
=20
court with a suit for the religious organisation to cease its activity'.

According to Pchelintsev, the branch indeed failed to provide this=20
information, but was in constant contact with the Main Administration of the=
=20
justice ministry for the city of Moscow about re-registration.

Pchelintsev was optimistic about the Salvation Army's case at the European=
=20
Court of Human Rights. `It's a scandalous infringement of rights and so we=
=20
will try to ensure that the case is fast-tracked and does not have to wait
its=20
turn,' he told Keston. `We are convinced we will win.'=20

The Salvation Army was registered in Moscow in 1992. On 16 August 2000,=20
an official rejection of its re-registration application was issued,
whereupon=20
the Moscow branch lodged an appeal at Moscow's Presnensky district court.=20
However, the court approved the re-registration refusal, citing as grounds
the=20
fact that the Salvation Army was a military organisation subordinate to a=20
foreign centre of authority. On 28 November 2000, Moscow city court=20
refused to allow an appeal by the Moscow branch against the Presnensky=20
court decision (see KNS 30 November 2000).=20

The Salvation Army has encountered such re-registration difficulties only in=
=20
Moscow; on a federal level it has been registered as a centralised religious=
=20
organisation (see KNS 26 February 2001). (END)

II. UZBEKISTAN: BAPTIST PASTOR `FACES EIGHT-YEAR=20
SENTENCE'

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

Just days after administrative charges against nine members of the=20
unregistered Bethany Baptist church in the Uzbek capital Tashkent were=20
suddenly dropped (see KNS 29 June 2001), the head of the local mahalla=20
(district administration) has told the church's pastor Nikolai Shevchenko
that=20
he faces an eight-year prison term for leading the church. The investigator=
=20
handling the criminal case against Shevchenko has declined to discuss how=20
the investigation is proceeding. `The investigation is underway,' Viktoriya=
=20
Postavtseva of Tashkent's Mirzo-Ulugbek district department of internal=20
affairs told Keston News Service from Tashkent on 4 July, `but in the=20
interests of the case I cannot give any information.' She referred all
further=20
enquiries to her boss, Yuri Borisov.

The case against Shevchenko under Article 216 of the criminal code (which=20
punishes `organisation of banned social associations and religious=20
organisations' and carries a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment)=20
was launched in the wake of a raid on the church by special police forces=20
during the Sunday morning service on 24 June. The authorities claim that=20
because the church is unregistered its activity is illegal.

`When I went to the mahalla on 3 July,' Shevchenko told Keston from=20
Tashkent the following day, `the mahalla chief tried to frighten me. He
said I=20
would get eight years' imprisonment.' It is not clear if the mahalla chief=
=20
(whom Shevchenko declined to name) is pushing for further criminal=20
charges to be instituted against Shevchenko, as five years' imprisonment is=
=20
the maximum penalty under Article 216.

Shevchenko told Keston that he had gone to the mahalla to get their=20
signature to acknowledge that he was bringing a suit in the Tashkent=20
Economic Court challenging the mahalla's refusal to support the church's=20
registration. `Registration needs the agreement of the mahalla,' Shevchenko=
=20
declared, `but the mahalla refused, saying the church was "not necessary".=
=20
We have decided to challenge this illegal refusal in court and I lodged the=
=20
suit with the court today.'

Shevchenko's church - which is a member of the Baptist Union =96 has been=20
seeking official registration in vain for five years. `Someone powerful - in=
=20
the mahalla, the procuracy or the SNB [the Uzbek successor to the KGB] or=20
somewhere else - is against our church,' Shevchenko claimed. He stressed=20
that his church wishes to abide by the law and can see no reason why it has=
=20
been denied registration. (END)

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