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RUSSIA: Suspended sentences and fines – list

Courts across Russia have jailed on "extremism"-related criminal charges many Jehovah's Witnesses and Muslims who read the works of the Turkish theologian Said Nursi. Courts have punished still more with suspended sentences or fines. Nearly 100 Jehovah's Witnesses are now on probation after receiving suspended sentences, as well as one Muslim Nursi reader. Jehovah's Witnesses serving suspended sentences have described the consequences, including being unable to see relatives living in other regions, and finding it impossible to secure jobs. A total of 20 Jehovah's Witnesses have been fined. Jehovah's Witness Yevgeny Yakku was fined nearly two years' average wage in his home region of Arkhangelsk.

UZBEKISTAN: Targeted for being a devout Muslim woman

Officials are harassing an 18-year-old Muslim from Tashkent who wears the hijab. The family complained to the President and others about her being added to the Preventative Register. Police told neighbours that the authorities do not like her and warned them not to associate with her. Muslim men who have had their beards forcibly shaved have also been added to the Preventative Register. "Muslims are indignant that the state is attacking their beards and hijab, which is a very private matter for each individual," one Muslim told Forum 18. After anti-beard and –hijab talks in colleges, a Higher Education Ministry official claimed that "students will not be punished for a beard or hijab".

KYRGYZSTAN: Religious freedom survey, January 2022

Freedom of religion and belief and interlinked human rights are under increasing threat in Kyrgyzstan. Forum 18's survey analysis documents: increasing "legal" restrictions on the freedom of religion and belief; Ahmadi Muslims being prevented from meeting since 2011, and refusal to allow the Falun Gong spiritual movement to exist; state attempts aiming to eventually ban all Jehovah's Witness communities; state officials and imams repeatedly stopping people peacefully burying their dead under their own rites, the most recent case being against a Protestant pastor's family.

BELARUS: UN appeal for fined conscientious objector

In December 2021, the United Nations Human Rights Committee asked Belarus to respond in the case of 33-year-old Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector Dmitry Mozol. In February 2021, a court in Pinsk fined him four months' wages for refusing call-up to reservist military training on grounds of conscience. He failed to overturn the criminal punishment on appeal. The law allows only individuals who have completed alternative civilian service to be exempted from reservist military training. Alternative service was introduced only in 2016, after Mozol was initially called up. Jehovah's Witnesses fear that other young men could also face such prosecution.

KAZAKHSTAN: Legal changes increase obstacles for holding religious events

As the regime declares a state of emergency and bans mass meetings in some areas, legal changes from 9 January increase the obstacles for holding religious meetings away from state-registered places of worship. Human rights defenders such as the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law have documented the regime's already severe restrictions on the right of peaceful assembly and to hold demonstrations. Orthodox Christmas night services (due on 6/7 January) in state of emergency areas have been cancelled.

DONBAS: Luhansk: Christmas saved for parishes not allowed a priest

The first Christmas services in the Roman Catholic parishes in Luhansk and Stakhanov since 2019 are due to go ahead, thanks to a Greek Catholic priest from neighbouring Donetsk prepared to make the seven-hour round trip. Parish priest Grzegorz Rapa left in March 2020 expecting to return, but the authorities of the self-declared Luhansk People's Republic repeatedly refused. The only two Masses in 2021 were both celebrated by the visiting Greek Catholic priest. Asked why Catholics have not been allowed a resident priest since 2020, Sergei Panteleyev of the Religious and Inter-Ethnic Relations Sector of the Culture Ministry said: "Our department doesn't take such a decision – it is decided at a higher level."

RUSSIA: "Foreign agents", "undesirable organisations", and freedom of religion or belief

Russia has used increasingly strict legislation on "foreign agents" (a term which has connotations of spying) and "undesirable organisations" to curtail, complicate, or prohibit the activities of organisations which promote human rights and monitor their violation, including that of freedom of religion and belief. This "indirectly affects the people human rights defenders stand up for", says Aleksandr Verkhovsky of the SOVA Centre for Information and Analysis (branded a "foreign agent"). The Justice Ministry and prosecutors are seeking through the courts to close down the Memorial Human Rights Centre (also branded a "foreign agent"), partly for its monitoring of criminal prosecutions of Jehovah's Witnesses.

KYRGYZSTAN: Literature ban rejected: "repression is postponed for now"

On 2 December, a Bishkek court rejected a General Prosecutor's Office suit to ban Jehovah's Witness books and videos as "extremist", saying it had been filed under the wrong procedure. The General Prosecutor's Office official who took the case to court said it will not appeal. "The repression is postponed for now," said Syinat Sultanalieva of Human Rights Watch. The NSC secret police – which backed the ban attempt – is also pushing to have Jehovah's Witnesses banned. The General Prosecutor's Office official said he is not aware of any suit being prepared. The NSC officer investigating a 2-year-old criminal case against unspecified Jehovah's Witnesses refused to give information, citing the "secrecy of the investigation".