Divergent reports on Jehovah's Witnesses' appeal in Kazakhstan


InformBiuro, 4 August 2017


The center continues legally to conduct administrative activity and coordinate the activity of congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses in Kazakhstan.


Jehovah's Witnesses from Almaty were able to resume their activity after having lost in the court of first instance.


The Jehovah's Witnesses were sued in court on the basis of the supposition by police that the center had an insufficient number of surveillance cameras, the press service of societies of Jehovah's Witnesses reports. The police concluded that the building for worship services does not comply with the safety protocols as a place for mass gathering of people.


The court of the first instance issued a decision to suspend for three months the activity of the Christian Center of Jehovah's Witnesses and to impose on it a fine of 680,000 tenge.


However, on appeal, the believers were permitted to continue the activity of the center. The press service of societies of Jehovah's Witnesses reports that several groups of this organization in Almaty will have to seek a temporary place for conducting meetings for worship.


"This may be viewed as a serious impediment in the life of the religious community in Almaty. However one can note with commendation that the court and the government of Kazakhstan did not rely on false accusations and propaganda against the activity of Jehovah's Witnesses," the report says.


In July radio Azattyk reported that on 29 June a court in Almaty issued an order regarding the Christian Center of Jehovah's Witnesses.


Later the minister of affairs of religion and civil society of the republic of Kazakhstan, Nurlan Ermekbaev, commented on the suspension of activity of the Jehovah's Witnesses' center. He explained that the position of the ministry is that this organization is not extremist and as of the present there are no plans for its complete closure or some other pressure. There is only the demand that the legislation of Kazakhstan be observed. (tr. by PDS, posted 5 August 2017)


Radio Azattik, 4 August 2017


In the Almaty city court during the night from Thursday to Friday, the consideration of the appeal of the regional religious organization "Christian Center of Jehovah's Witnesses" on the order of the Specialized Inter-regional Administrative Court of Almaty of 29 June concluded. The court of the first instance suspended the activity of the religious organization for three months and imposed a fine of 680 tenge (more than 2,100 US dollars) because of the "noncompliance" of the center's building with the requirements of the security of buildings with mass gathering of people. The judge of the appellate college for civil cases of the Almaty city court, Zhenis Karibaev, ruled on 3 August to leave the ruling of the court of the first instance as a whole without change, and to leave the petition of the religious organization without satisfaction.


Judge Karibaev explained that by his decision activity was suspended for only those houses of worship that, in the opinion of police, were insufficiently equipped in terms of guaranteeing anti-terrorism security there. The center will be able to exist, but will not be able to conduct worship services in facilities for mass gathering of people that are "forbidden" for three months.


In the appellate trial this time, two employees of the Directorate for Combating Terrorism of the Department of Internal Affairs of Almaty, Maulen Kasymzhan and Olzhas Iskakov, were questioned. They insisted on the validity of the conclusions of the inspection that was conducted in the center on 5 June.


For the second time, a police department inspector of the Nauryzbaisk district directorate of internal affairs, Major Nurbol Primbetov, did not appear. As Judge Zhenis Karibaev reported, Major Primbetov is on vacation and therefore cannot attend court. At the previous session, Judge Karibaev declared that Primbetov will be summoned to the next session and did not rule out that he would be transported by force. This time the judge declared that questioning of Primbetov was not necessary since two other police officers who participated in the inspection of the center on 5 June will be questioned.


Local lawyers Lev Gladyshev and Stanislav Lee and an attorney from Canada, Sean Brady, stated that with such an approach, "not these witnesses" will be questioned. However Judge Karibaev displayed steadfastness in his decision regarding the composition of witnesses.


During the debates of the sides, prosecutor Serik Kozhakhmetov said that he considered the ruling of the court of the first instance to be justified and he asked to leave it without change.


In their turn, the defense side declared that the testimony of the witnesses questioned could not have dispositive force since they voluntarily entered their names in the list of inspectors and therefore their participation in the inspection was illegal. At the same time, they said, the legitimate and key participant in the inspection, Major Primbetov, who is supposed to be the key witness, was not questioned.


In the speeches of the lawyers, arguments were voiced that the ruling of the court of the first instance violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Kazakhstan signed, declaring itself to be a democratic state. The defense side called special attention to the disproportion of the harsh punishment for what they thought to be insignificant shortcomings. The lawyers asked the appellate court to select one of several versions proposed by them, including overruling the order of the court of the first instance; terminating the judicial proceedings; changing the order, so that the order of the court of the first instance about suspending the activity of the center would pertain only to those buildings where shortcomings from the point of view of anti-terrorism security had been found.  (tr. by PDS, posted 5 August 2017)

Background articles:
Kazakhstan Jehovah's Witnesses assert their rights
August 1, 2017
Jehovah's Witnesses report freedom in Kazakhstan
July 28, 2017

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