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    » 05/26/2012, 00.00


    Kazakh authorities convict Baptist man on false charges

    Vasily Stakhnev has to pay a hefty fine for illegal distribution of religious material. He said he would appeal his conviction. The authorities have targeted Baptists because they refuse to register. In a few months, the country's religion law has led to the banning of almost 600 churches and religious groups.

    Astana (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Kazakh authorities charged Protestant man and convicted him for illegally handing out religious material. Vasily Stakhnev, a Baptist, broke Kazakhstan's religion law. Adopted on 21 October 2011, the law is the work of President Nursultan Nazarbayev. In a few months, it has proven highly controversial and has led to the banning of almost 600 churches and religious groups.

    Unregistered religious activity is illegal in Kazakhstan, as is religious literature that has not passed state censorship.

    With such a law in place, the authorities have raided religious groups, including Jehovah's Witness and Hare Krishna.

    Baptists are an especially easy target because they refuse on principle to register with the government.

    Citing local sources, Forum 18 reported that in February security agents raided the flats of Vasily Stakhnev and two other Baptists in Serebryansk, eastern Kazakhstan, a Christian booklets from all three.

    In Stakhev's case, police pressured neighbours to sign statements that he had "stuck religious literature in the door handles or under the doors of their flats."

    Although he acknowledges possessing Christian literature, Stakhev maintains that he is innocent and that never handed out material to others.

    Despite his claims, a judge convicted him on 27 April for "carrying out of missionary activity by citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan, foreigners and persons without citizenship without registration".

    Now Stakhev, who has launched an appeal against his sentence, has to pay a fine in excess of a thousand dollar, far more than what he earns.


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    See also

    28/10/2006 KAZAKHSTAN
    Changes to law on religious freedom planned

    The authorities have said the amendments will not make things worse but many Protestant groups fear further restrictions on their activities. Small communities are often hassled, fined or forced to wait for a long time to get compulsory registration.

    23/02/2012 KAZAKHSTAN
    Kazakh government to ban 579 Churches and religious communities
    Any group with less than 50 members is excluded under the new Religion Law of 21 October. Existing groups have until 25 October 2012 to meet the law's requirements. In the meantime, public meetings are banned.

    05/09/2011 KAZAKHSTAN
    Protestants fear restrictions with the new Kazakh law on religious freedom
    The changes expected within a few months. The Constitutional Court has declared the previous Act illegal. The country says it wants to combat Islamic terrorism, but punishes any unauthorized activity and pursues the small Christian groups.

    27/04/2013 KAZAKHSTAN
    Kazakhstan, "religious freedom does not exist"
    Cases of persecution against minority religious are growing. Members of religious communities and human rights defenders in the country report that there is no freedom of faith.

    14/09/2006 KAZAKHSTAN
    Astana, inter-faith declaration: "Eliminate prejudice to stop terrorism"

    At the close of the second inter-faith congress, religious leaders pledged to promote shared values in their communities, rather than those that divide different faiths.

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