17 September 2019

RUSSIA: Mosque demolished, church to follow?

Officials repeatedly rebuffed attempts to legalise ownership of the land where Good News Pentecostal Church in Samara has worshipped for two decades. Officials want to demolish the church, at the congregation's expense. A court hearing is due on 25 September. In May, officials bulldozed a mosque built on farmland near Chernyakhovsk in Russia's Kaliningrad exclave, claiming it violated planning regulations. [read more...]

12 September 2019

BELARUS: New possible fines for unapproved worship

On 18 July, criminal punishments for unregistered religious activities, including worship meetings, ended, but were replaced by summary fines of up to five weeks' average wage. "Some church members will be scared and stop coming to worship services or, God forbid, the authorities will impose a restraining order on the church's property," the leader of an unregistered Christian community commented. [read more...]

11 September 2019

TAJIKISTAN: Pensioner jailed until August 2026

In a closed hearing in prison, a judge in Khujand on 10 September jailed 68-year-old Jehovah's Witness Shamil Khakimov for seven years, six months in strict regime custody for "inciting religious hatred". On release in August 2026, aged 74, Khakimov would be banned from religious activity until August 2029. "I am guilty of nothing," he told the court and is expected to appeal. [read more...]

6 September 2019

RUSSIA: Losing places of worship

Complex, sometimes contradictory, and often inconsistently applied legislation can lead religious communities to lose their places of worship. Officials barred a Baptist community in Novorossiysk from using its church "for religious purposes", despite the fact that it has worshipped on the same site for two decades. Local authorities are often unwilling to permit the construction of purpose-built churches and mosques. [read more...]

5 September 2019

TURKMENISTAN: Fourth known 2019 conscientious objector jailing

An Ashgabad court jailed 20-year-old Jehovah's Witness Azat Ashirov for two years on 31 July for refusing compulsory military service on grounds of conscience. He had set out his objections in writing and offered to perform an alternative civilian service. Instead prosecutors claimed he had evaded his obligation fraudulently. Seven Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors are now jailed, four of them in 2019. [read more...]

27 August 2019

BELARUS: "Unaffordable" police fees stop Greek Catholic pilgrimage

Under a Council of Ministers Decree, public events require fees to police, health workers and cleaners. The Interior Ministry later said fees would not apply to religious organisations' events at designated venues, such as churches and cemeteries. However, Greek Catholic leaders cancelled what would have been their 25th annual pilgrimage from Vitebsk to Polotsk in mid-July because of "unaffordable" police fees. [read more...]

19 August 2019

KAZAKHSTAN: Years of intrusive questioning

A Muslim complains of six years' intrusive police questioning about his faith: "These are my personal beliefs they are asking about." The Interior Minister denied that police questioned Yerlan – most recently on 20 July - because of his faith. The Interior Ministry says 23,000 are on a register of adherents of "destructive religious movements". Rights defender Yevgeny Zhovtis says no such category exists in law. [read more...]

15 August 2019

GEORGIA: Who needs a Religion Law?

Many religious communities and human rights defenders strongly oppose Georgian government plans for a restrictive Religion Law. Instead, they call for resolving freedom of religion and belief problems by implementing recommendations made by the Council of Religions under the Public Defender. [read more...]