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The right to believe, to worship and witness
The right to change one’s belief or religion
The right to join together and express one’s belief

RUSSIA: 32nd Jehovah's Witness criminal conviction

On 1 April, Igor Ivashin became the 32nd Jehovah's Witness convicted of "continuing the activity of an extremist organisation" since the 2017 Supreme Court ban. A Siberian court handed him a six-year suspended sentence, requiring him to live under restrictions. Jehovah's Witness Vladimir Alushkin was freed from pre-trial detention after nearly ten months after a court overturned his six-year jail term. He and five others face a new trial.

TAJIKISTAN: Conscientious objector tortured, jailed for two years

Nearly six months after being seized, Dushanbe's Military Court jailed 20-year-old Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector Jovidon Bobojonov today (2 April) for two years in a general regime labour camp for refusing compulsory military service. He has already appealed against his conviction. While held in the military unit, personnel tortured Bobojonov with beatings to pressure him to take the military oath and put on uniform.

KAZAKHSTAN: More court-ordered religious literature destruction

In 2020, courts ordered destroyed one Muslim and 196 Christian publications. The owners were each fined one month's average wage. Punishing an individual for importing one religious book ("Selected Hadiths") for personal use is a "clear violation" by the court, a legal specialist noted. "Normally [the Police] destroy books by putting them in a stove, but I can't say if they've already destroyed the book," the judge told Forum 18.

AZERBAIJAN: "No objection" to limited worship, but no legal right

After 25 years, Aliabad's Baptist community, denied legal status the longest, finally began open worship in January. The State Committee for Work with Religious Organisations wrote that it had "no objection" to meetings once a week for two hours. Shia Imam Sardar Babayev, freed after a three-year sentence for preaching in a mosque with foreign education, will not resume preaching for fear of renewed criminal prosecution.

TURKEY: Constitutional Court judgment on Armenian Patriarchal election – a precedent?

Turkey's Constitutional Court ruled in May 2019 that state interference in the election to replace the ailing Armenian Patriarch was not prescribed by law and not necessary in a democratic society. The precedent is relevant for similar cases over interference in the internal affairs of other religious communities, particularly those the state considers Lausanne Treaty minorities. But any impact remains to be seen.

TURKMENISTAN: Raids, fines for religious meetings

Police in Dashoguz raided two Protestant home meetings in February. During one raid, officers threatened to take away the host's grandchildren and have other participants sacked from work. The host was fined nearly a week's average wage. Another home owner in Lebap Region was similarly fined for hosting a Christmas celebration. Officials in Lebap Region banned state employees from attending Friday prayers in mosques.

RUSSIA: Impunity for officials who torture?

No officials accused in three cases of torture of individuals detained for exercising freedom of religion or belief appear to have been arrested or put on criminal trial. Prison officials in Blagoveshchensk between 2015 and 2017 oversaw the torture of Yevgeny Kim, which included broken ribs and attempted rape. Investigators in Surgut in February 2019 hooded, kicked, beat and tortured seven Jehovah's Witnesses with electric shocks.

TAJIKISTAN: Fines, torture for hijab-wearing, fines for Bible translation

Around 20 Muslim women were detained in a Dushanbe street for wearing a hijab, with some being fined. One, Nilufar Rajabova, stated that she was also tortured at a police station. Elsewhere, Christians were given large fines for arranging a Bible translation into Tajik.