KESTON NEWS SERVICE: SUMMARY
Issue 6, Articles 7-22
26 June 2000

Immediate reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in
communist and post-communist lands.
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FIVE REREGISTRATION REFUSALS FOR MOSCOW BUDDHIST
GROUP (26 June). The assistant director of the main Moscow department of
justice told Keston that he knew which documents the group Nipponzan
Myohoji was missing, but that it was not his job to tell them. According to one
of the monks, �In practice [the law on religion] is designed to weed out small,
new groups which don�t matter�. It has become clear to them that Russian
authorities are hostile to their groups because it originates outside Russia and
has connections abroad.

RUSSIA: FSB BARS JAPANESE BUDDHIST TEACHER FROM ENTRY
(23 June). The spiritual teacher of the Japanese Buddhist order Nipponzan
Myohoji, Junsei Terasawa, was denied an entry visa to Russia on 6 June
because he had been put on a �closed list by the FSB [former KBG]�. The
consular official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed this and said
�They do not give us an explanation�. Since Terasawa has travelled unimpeded
to Russia on a frequent basis since 1991, the order�s Moscow community
believes that his condemnation of Russia�s military campaign in Chechnya
during a speech in April to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights
has prompted the Russian authorities to bar him from the country in �revenge�.

CHEBOKSARY PENTECOSTALS FACE NEW LIQUIDATION HEARING
(23 June). On 8 June a judge and a local Ministry of Justice official summoned
the pastor and unsuccessfully pressured him to agree to the liquidation of his
charismatic church in Cheboksary, 750 km east of Moscow. When pastor Titov
refused, judge Yakovlev told him �They will liquidate the church all the same�.
28 June is the newest date set for a hearing delayed several times due to the
absence of either the judge or a Ministry of Justice representative. The case
cites three charges: unlicensed medical activity (services for the sick), the
holding of services where the pastor lives (which is not prohibited under the
law), and attracting young people into the activity of the church (the pastor
showed the Bible cartoon Super King to children).

KOSTROMA PENTECOSTALS FACE LIQUIDATION PROCEEDINGS (9
June). In the wake of the decision of the Kostroma regional department of
justice to refuse reregistration to two Pentecostal congregations, officials are
preparing legal suits to liquidate both churches under article 14, clause 2, point
7 of Russia�s 1997 law on religion (which allows religious groups that use
hypnosis to be liquidated or banned). An �expert committee� concluded that the
two pastors employed �psychological manipulation� during services only by
viewing a videotape of the services - but without attending a service or talking
to the pastors or church members. The report nowhere declares the pastors to
have caused harm to citizens, essential to obtain a liquidation order from the
court. The pastors said the videotape material was genuine - showing the
effects of the �anointing of the Holy Spirit� but stated the investigative
procedures were illegal - as members of a centralised religious organisation,
only the federal ministry of justice could appoint an expert committee.

RUSSIA'S JEWISH ORGANISATIONS IN TURMOIL (6 June). Russia's
Jewish leadership has been thrown into turmoil with the claim by chief rabbi
Adolf Shayevich that an anonymous Kremlin official suggested last month that
he resign from his post. Rabbi Berl Lazar leads the Federation of the Russian
Jewish Communities and appears to be viewed by Shayevich as his main rival.
Who will direct international aid for rebuilding synagogues, schools and
organising community centres and represent Russian Jewish interests abroad
are concerns within the dispute.

LEGAL VICTORY DOES NOT END REGISTARTION BATTLE FOR
LIPETSK JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES (5 June). After winning an appeal in
which the judge ordered the Lipetsk Justice Department to register the
Jehovah's Witnesses, the local religious organisation is still waiting. The
official responsible for registration told Keston she was waiting for the
Procuracy's response to see if he 'plucks up enough courage' to protest against
the decision. However, before this latest appeal, the Jehovah's Witnesses rallied
several senior Russian officials to comment on the case; a Duma member
acknowledged that since the local religious organisation was a member of a
registered centralised religious organisation, the Justice Department had no
alternative.

ARE RUSSIAN AUTHORITIES SHARING MISSIONARY BLACKLIST
WITH KAZAKHS? (22 June). An American Protestant missionary who was
told earlier in the year that he had been barred from the Russian Federation
�permanently� has been refused entry to Kazakhstan despite holding a valid
visa. David Binkley, of the North Atlanta Church of Christ believes the
Russian authorities have shared their missionary blacklist with the Kazakh
authorities. An official of the Kazakh Foreign Ministry in Astana told Keston
that the decision to refuse Binkley entry lay with the Border Guard Service, a
sub-division of the National Service Committee (KNB, former KGB). An
official of the Border Guard Service in Almaty refused categorically to tell
Keston the reason for the denial of entry, whether Binkley would be refused
entry again if he returned to Kazakhstan, and denied that Kazakhstan had such
a blacklist. Binkley complains that no-one ever explained why he was denied
entry and sent back on the morning flight after seven hours at the airport. �I
asked to call the US Embassy in Kazakhstan�they said they would try to find
a phone number. They never did. At least two or three people were watching us
the entire night.�

NOVOSIBIRSK CATHOLICS NO LONGER SEEK REDRESS FOR TAX
POLICE RAID (21 June). The tax police have returned all property confiscated
during their May raid of the Jesuit centre, but have not apologised for what
appears to be a violation of the 1997 law on religion. A member of the tax
police told Keston that the Jesuits were �being sly� by claiming they had no
idea why the raid took place and explained it was simply a �regular check-up�.

SOVIET-ERA RELIGIOUS PRISONER FAILS IN COMPENSATION BID
AT STRASBOURG (20 June). A Reform Adventist who claims his health was
broken by maltreatment during his imprisonment for his religious activity
during the Soviet period has failed in his bid to sue Russia at the European
Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg. Though rehabilitated in 1997,
Pavel Polle remains unhappy at his level of compensation. The Court ruled the
case inadmissible because the imprisonment had occurred before Russia was
subject to the ECHR and because Polle had failed to exhaust all domestic legal
remedies (ie. through the Russian courts). The court did not address the actual
merits of Polle�s case because the application itself was outside the Court�s
competence.

TBILISI JEWS� FIVE YEAR BATTLE FOR RETURN OF SYNAGOGUE
(23 June). The synagogue remains in the hands of a theatre group that has
refused to give it up. Judge Benedi Benidze will preside over the forthcoming
hearing set for 27 June. According to the theatre director, Tavadze, �We began
to restore and rebuild it and then - three years alter - the Jews came knocking
saying it was their synagogue.� He declared that the community had found
documents referring to a first and a second synagogue, but had not realised that
the second synagogue had been built on the site of the first after it had been
destroyed. Rabbi Levin categorically rejected Tavadze�s claimed citing several
court hearing handing down decisions in favour of the Jews.

ILLEGAL PRESSURE ON BAPTISTS TO REGISTER IN KAZAKH
CAPITAL (13 June). A Baptist congregation in the Kazakh capital Astana is
facing pressured to registered from the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of the
Interior, the police and the procuracy, despite the fact that Kazakhstan�s law on
religion sets out no requirement that religious organisations must register in
order to be allowed to function. Kazakh officials refused to explain why the
church was being pressured to register.

TAJIK AUTHORITIES INSTRUCT BAPTIST CHURCH TO HALT ITS
ACTIVITY (15 June). Legal authorities in the Tajik capital Dushanbe have
stepped up their pressure on an unregistered Baptist church because it has
refused to register. Despite the fact that Tajikistan�s published law on religion
lays down no requirement that religious groups must gain registration in order
to function, the country�s top religious affairs official told Keston, �It is
obligatory that religious groups register�If [unregistered groups]�conduct
propaganda, or hold meetings in public or if they invite outsiders then there
will be problems.� One hearing has already taken place, but the case has been
repeatedly postponed, reportedly because telegrams in Reimer�s support from
Baptists around the world have been arriving at the court.

TURKMEN BAPTIST PRISONER THREATENED WITH PUNISHMENT
CELL? (9 June). The administration of the labour camp in Seydy is reviewing
the case of prisoners, some of which may be freed. Others will face increased
penalties. The camp authorities seem to want to punish Baptist Shageldy
Atakov for the �crime� of being the ring-leader among those imprisoned. His
wife has reported that Atakov is respected by his fellow prisoners and remains
�bold and firm in faith�.

LOCAL UZBEK OFFICIAL BANS BAPTIST SUMMER CAMP (1 June).
Poor roads and dry weather were the reasons given to deny the Evangelical
Christian/Baptist Church permission to hold a children's summer camp in the
Bostanlyk district near Tashkent. The deputy head of this district - which is
popular for summer holidays - succeeded in forcing the church to close its
camp here in 1998 as well.

CENTRAL UZBEK AUTHORITIES QUESTION BAPTIST
REGISTRATION DENIAL (1 June). The government's Committee of
Religious Affairs in Tashkent has written to the deputy head of the local
administration in the Bostanlyk district demanding the reasons for which it
rejected the Baptist church's application. The Union of Evangelical
Christian/Baptist Churches (ECB) told Keston that Baptists have had a
presence in the town of Gazalkent for 100 years. However, the deputy head
justified his decision by stating the fact that a Full Gospel Church had existed
in the town and claimed had led to some disorder. Furthermore he suggested
that the Baptists should attend the Russian Orthodox Church.

Copyright (c) 2000 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.