The new “Restrictive Religion Law” adopted in October 2011 has allowed officials in Kazakhstan to further violate individuals rights to “freedom of religion or belief”. Currently, seven people of faith ranging from Protestant to Jehovah’s Witness have been punished for “illegal missionary activity”. This could account for anything from running a church service while the Pastor is out of town to sharing your faith on the street.
By Felix Corley
01/22/2013 Kazakhstan (Forum 18) -“One year after Kazakhstan significantly widened and increased administrative punishments for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief, a growing number of individuals are being handed such punishments, Forum 18 News Service notes. Some punished for "illegal missionary activity" were sharing their faith with others on the street, others were leading religious meetings within their communities. Many are being given the maximum fine of 100 Minimum Financial Indicators (MFIs), which in many parts of the country represents several months' average wages.
"We are very concerned that more Jehovah's Witnesses will soon be arrested and convicted for 'missionary activity'," Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18 from Kazakhstan's commercial capital Almaty on 22 January. They fear that the fines already handed down "will no doubt further embolden the Agency of Religious Affairs [ARA] and local law enforcement officials to arrest Jehovah's Witnesses. The detentions and convictions appear to be coordinated by the ARA."
Seven "missionary activity" prosecutions so far
Seven individuals - four Jehovah's Witnesses, two Muslims and a Protestant – are known to have been prosecuted since August 2012 under Article 375, Part 3 of the Code of Administrative Offences. This punishes "illegal missionary activity" with a maximum fine of 100 MFIs (a figure set annually). In 2012 this amounted to 161,800 Tenge. In 2013 this rose to 173,100 Tenge (6,400 Norwegian Kroner, 860 Euros or 1,150 US Dollars). At least three more individuals are known to be expecting prosecution under Article 375, Part 3.
In the same period, one Baptist has already been prosecuted under Article 375, Part 1 with at least two more prosecutions imminent.