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KAZAKHSTAN: “To counter manifestations of religious extremism and terrorism”
ICC Note:
In January there were at least eight worship meetings raided by the police. At least three Baptist pastors were punished with fines, some the equivalent of a two months wage. The authorities maintain that raids and fines are necessary on religious groups to “counter manifestations of religious extremism and terrorism”.
By Felix Corley
2/05/2013 Kazakhstan (Forum 18) -At least eight separate meetings for worship in Kazakhstan were raided by the authorities in January, Forum 18 News Service has learned. Raids on Baptists were made, police claimed, “to counter manifestations of religious extremism and terrorism”. It seems that some raids – which police insist were not raids – took place after official monitoring of the religious communities. Speaking of a raid on Jehovah’s Witnesses, police Major Kanat Rakhmetzhanov told Forum 18 that: “It is not against the law to gather to watch football, read poetry or drink vodka. But our lads wouldn’t have gone to such a meeting for no reason. We had reliable information that prayers were being said.” Fines for the unregistered exercise of religious freedom were imposed on three Baptist pastors. Police gave evidence that Pastor Aleksandr Kerker illegally “stood at the pulpit and read Psalms from the Bible, then those present sang Christian hymns”. He – with the other two pastors – were each fined the equivalent of nearly two months average wages for this “offence”.
In some cases meetings for worship were broken up, and in other cases police waited until they were over before questioning meeting participants. Three religious leaders – all Council of Churches Baptist pastors in North Kazakhstan Region – were punished for leading these meetings with the maximum administrative fine of 100 Minimum Financial Indicators (MFIs). This is currently equivalent to nearly two months average wages as measured nationwide by the state.
Other Protestant and Jehovah’s Witness congregations are among the religious communities whose meetings for worship have also been raided. Independent and ethnic minority mosques are also being targeted, and continue to be denied re-registration – and so permission to exist – if they will not join the state-backed Muslim Board.
At least some of the raids were led or instigated by local police Departments for the Struggle against Extremism, Separatism and Terrorism. North Kazakhstan Regional Police announced the raids on three local Council of Churches Baptist congregations as a joint operation with the Regional Department of the government’s Agency of Religious Affairs (ARA). A 1 February statement on the police website announced that police, with the regional ARA Department, conducted “operational/prophylactic activity to counter manifestations of religious extremism and terrorism”.
Although the victims of the raids were unnamed in the statement, the dates and locations of raids, as well as fines imposed, matched the details of the raids and fines against Baptists. The police statement also claimed the raids were directed at “illegal missionary activity”, and “illegal migration”. It also claimed that “special emphasis was put on investigating places where religious books are traded”. Similar operations against uncensored religious literature distribution have taken place elsewhere in Kazakhstan (see forthcoming F18News article).
What the authorities claim is “illegal missionary activity” is regularly targeted. Seven individuals – Muslim, Protestant and Jehovah’s Witness – are known to have been fined under the Code of Administrative Offences since August 2012. At least five of them were fined 100 MFIs.

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