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Refusing to pay a fine for exercising your religious liberty may lead to other consequences. In Kazakhstan, a number of Baptists have had the government claim their property as payment for such fines, and sometimes find themselves unable to travel out of the country as debtors of the state. In one recent case, a Baptist man was told that his car would be sold and half the profit would be taken to pay his outstanding fine.

By Felix Corley

6/17/2014 Kazakhstan (Forum 18) – In early May a court ruled that half the family car belongs to a Council of Churches Baptist who had refused to pay an earlier fine to punish him for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief. The car can therefore be used to pay off the outstanding fine…

Roman Pugachev is the latest known Council of Churches Baptist to face the possible enforced sale of his property for his refusal to pay earlier fines. On 4 May, Judge Kanat Abubakir of Ualikhan District Court in North Kazakhstan Region ruled that the Volkswagen Multivan family car owned by his wife Yekaterina constitutes jointly-owned property, according to the court decision seen by Forum 18. Thus half the value of the car is deemed to be Pugachev’s. The decision notes that “of its nature, dividing the car… is impossible.”

The court decision – made at the request of court bailiff Tynybek Temirzhanov – effectively allows the car to be sold and the half share deemed to be Pugachev’s to be taken to pay the unpaid fines, Pugachev pointed out. “They now want to take it, sell it and divide the value,” he lamented to Forum 18 on 17 June. “The car is already automatically under a restraining order.” He said the family still [has] the car. “No measures have yet been undertaken.”

Pugachev said he and his wife use the car to transport themselves and their nine children, and also to visit church services in other locations.

Court bailiffs have already placed restraining orders on household items, Pugachev noted, including their kitchen equipment. “Bailiffs told us it’s theirs now. We have to keep it and look after it for them now. We can use it but can’t sell it.”

Pugachev is among more than 25 Council of Churches Baptists known to be on the Justice Ministry’s list of debtors unable to leave Kazakhstan…
“I only found out I was on the ban list in early 2013 when I tried to cross the border to take part in a church meeting in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan,” Pugachev told Forum 18. “They should inform you in writing, but I only got the notification about two months after that.”

Although Pugachev and his wife have relatives in Israel and Ukraine, he is unable to go to visit them. “My wife doesn’t want to go without me,” he told Forum 18.

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