In 2017, Kazakhstan Punishes Over 300 People for Practicing Their Faith
Forum 18 reports that Kazakhstan had a busy 2017 in terms of squashing religious freedom. The primarily Sunni Muslim country punished hundreds of religious minorities including Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Shi’a Muslims. Kazakhstan leveled 279 administrative prosecutions against religious minorities with 258 resulting in punishments. Hosting worship meetings, evangelizing, or handing out religious literature qualified religious minorities for administrative convictions. In addition to the 258 administrative punishments, Kazakhstan also gave 23 religious minorities criminal convictions. The administrative punishments included fines, seizing religious literature, and restrictions on religious practices. Criminal punishments included jail time.
01/27/2018 Kazakhstan (Forum 18) – At least 279 administrative prosecutions are known to have been brought in 2017 to punish individuals, religious communities, charities and companies for their exercise of freedom of religion or belief. Of these, 258 ended up with punishments, which included fines, a short-term jail term, temporary or permanent bans on activity (including bans on meeting for worship), deportations and seizures of religious literature.
Muslims, Protestants (especially Council of Churches Baptists), Jehovah’s Witnesses and commercial sellers were the many targets of these prosecutions.
Fines were mostly the equivalent of between three weeks’ and six months’ average wages for those in formal work (35 to 300 Monthly Financial Indicators [MFIs], 79,415 Tenge to 680,700 Tenge in 2017).
In nine cases, courts ordered seized religious literature to be destroyed. For the first time known to Forum 18, this included in 2017 a copy of the Koran. The head of the District court bailiff service refused to tell Forum 18 if and how the Koran was destroyed (see below).
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