Kazakhstan Jehovah's Witnesses assert their rights


Radio Azattic, 1 August 2017


Today there began the consideration of the appeal of the regional religious organization "Christian Center of Jehovah's Witnesses" against the order of the Specialized Inter-regional Administrative Court of Almaty of 29 June, which suspended the activity of the religious organization for three months and levied a fine of 680 thousand tenge (more than 2,100 US dollars).


In the appellate court, a witness was questioned, 81-year-old Jehovah's Witness Anatoly Melnik, who along with his 79-year-old wife has lived in the center for 21 years now. If the center is closed, then, according to the invalid Melnik, he and his wife (who cannot get around independently and besides can barely see) will have no place to go.


According to the judge of the appellate chamber for civil affairs of the Almaty city court, Zhenis Karabaev, Major Maulen Berimbetov, an officer of the department for internal affairs of Almaty, was summoned for today's court session. On 5 June he participated in an inspection of the Christian Center of Jehovah's Witnesses, but he did not appear in court for an unknown reason. The judge announced that Berimbetov will be summoned for the next session, and if he does not appear voluntarily, then he will be transported by police forcibly.


After a review of petitions of the defense and questions of the prosecutor, Serik Kozhakhmetov, addressed to the defense, Judge Karibaev declared a recess in the court session and scheduled the next session for 3 August.


The order of the administrative court of 29 June that the Christian Center of Jehovah's Witnesses is appealing was issued on the basis of the fact that the building in Almaty that the religious association occupies supposedly does not comply with established protocols for safety of buildings for large assemblies of people. Earlier this year the religious association was held accountable on article 149 of the Code of Administrative Violations of Law ("Lack of and/or improper performance of requirements for ensuring anti-terrorist protection and observing the required level of security of a building vulnerable to terrorist attack").


Information on the website of the "Christian Society of Jehovah's Witnesses" notes that events in Kazakhstan recall the intimidation on the part of police and the religious intolerance which have faced the society in Russia. The Russian Supreme Court ruled the organization to be extremist and banned its activity. (tr. by PDS, posted 2 August 2017)

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