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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

BELARUS: Fined for singing, offering religious literature

Police stopped a Baptist husband and wife from singing and offering Christian literature outside Lepel's market. "We were detained like criminals and brought to the police station," Andrei Fokin stated. A court fined the couple one month's average wages each. Bailiffs are seeking to confiscate property and ban him from driving.

BELARUS: Order not to register new religious communities?

"We want to comply with the law and gather for religious meetings without fear of raids, fines or detentions," says Pastor Vyacheslav Novakovsky of Your Will Be Done Church. A Minsk official involved in the four registration rejections since 2017 told him of "an order from superiors not to register any new communities". She refused to explain this to Forum 18.

BELARUS: State official vetoes foreign Orthodox, Catholic priests

In early June the senior state religious affairs official rejected a request from the Catholic Bishop of Vitebsk for permission for a priest from Poland to replace another who is leaving. Leonid Gulyako has already in 2018 rejected another Polish Catholic priest and two Orthodox priests from Russia.

BELARUS: Tortured, fined for offering religious literature

The court in Lepel has repeatedly fined local Baptists since mid-October for singing and offering Christian books to passers-by near the town market. After detaining two church members, police injured the face of one and put handcuffs so tightly on another that his hands went numb. Their complaint is with the Investigative Committee.

BELARUS: Priest forced out after 10 years

After 10 years' service as a parish priest Fr Robert Maciejewski was forced to return to his native Poland because Belarus' senior state religious affairs official refused the Catholic bishop's request to extend state permission for him to continue religious work.

BELARUS: State blocks parish priest nomination

Senior state religious affairs official Leonid Gulyako rejects Catholic Bishop's request for Russian priest Fr Klemens Werth to serve in Vitebsk parish, the latest foreign priest refused state permission. Bobruisk officials warn Baptists if further foreigners participate in worship their church will be liquidated.

BELARUS: "Alternative service exists, not for me"

Brest Regional Court unconstitutionally rejected an appeal by 21-year-old Jehovah Witness conscientious objector Viktor Kalina against his conviction and large fine for refusing to do military service. The appeal rejection came one week before Belarus' Alternative Service Law came into force on 1 July.

BELARUS: State ends priest's 25-year parish ministry

The Belarusian government's senior religious affairs official ends 25 years' parish service by Polish Catholic priest Fr Andrzej Stopyra with no explanation. The official also denied permission for Indian Catholic priest Fr James Manjackal to visit Belarus to lead religious exercises in a parish.

BELARUS: Plenipotentiary attacks Catholics and Jehovah's Witnesses, no religious radio

In December 2015, two Polish Catholic priests invited by the Church to work in Belarus were denied entry to the country. The visa application for one of the priests is being re-considered and there is a chance that the decision will be positive, Forum 18 News Service has learned. But "it's becoming ever more difficult for priests from abroad to come to Belarus" the Catholic Bishops Conference stated. Also, the government's Plenipotentiary for Religious and Ethnic Affairs, Leonid Gulyako, has as usual criticised the Catholic Church for alleged failings in clergy training and alleged "destructive" work by priests. Plenipotentiary Gulyako also threatened to revoke the state permission to exist of Jehovah's Witness communities, even though he does not have the legal power to do this. Forum 18's questions to him have not been answered. Also, no individual or belief community is able to have a religious FM broadcasting band radio station, despite several attempts. No official is prepared to take responsibility for dealing with such applications.

BELARUS: Colonel claims Constitution "nonsense", human rights treaties "not important"

Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector to military service, Dmitry Chorba, is still being called up despite an Alternative Service Law coming into force in Belarus on 1 July, he told Forum 18 News Service. Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Osipov of Rechitsa Military Conscription Office called him up despite the failure of one criminal case and two administrative cases he initiated against Chorba. In the second administrative case, the Lieutenant Colonel claimed in court in January that the Constitution is "nonsense" and international human rights treaties are "not important". In Mogilev Region, two Baptists are being prosecuted for "not using living premises for their designated purpose" after a December raid on a religious meeting. And in Svetlogorsk in Gomel Region, Baptist Pastor Vladimir Daineko has had his car put under restraint and his computer confiscated to pay for a fine imposed for leading a meeting for worship without state permission. Appeals against the fine have proved fruitless. "Now we appeal to our supreme authority – God who will not leave us," Daineko told Forum 18.

BELARUS: Do individuals have religious freedom or only registered organisations?

"In what form does a citizen of Belarus have the right freely to express and spread their religious convictions?" Minsk lawyer Sergei Lukanin asked parliament on 25 November. He also sought clarification as to whether a ban on reading the Bible in public is consistent with the Demonstrations Law and whether it is a right that only registered religious organisations enjoy. He sought clarification after the Deputy Head of Minsk Executive Committee Igor Karpenko refused his application to read the Bible aloud in a park. "The right to carry out religious activities is granted only to religious organisations listed in the State register of religious organisations," Karpenko claimed. A city official refused to clarify his statement to Forum 18. "I can't afford to be fined again as I have three children to support," Lukanin told Forum 18 News Service. "By applying for permission, I simply tried not to be a law breaker." Jehovah's Witness Valery Shirei in Vitebsk Region was prosecuted after police detained him for offering religious literature on the street. However, a judge acquitted him.

BELARUS: Why does government still try to conscript conscientious objectors?

Belarus' Rechitsa Military Conscription Office is yet again trying to conscript 24-year-old Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector Dmitry Chorba for military service, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. The attempts continue despite past criminal and administrative charges against him being dropped and an Alternative Service Law coming into force in July 2016. Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Osipov, who heads the Conscription Office, does not want conscientious objection to be "a habit" but has refused to explain to Forum 18 why he and his colleagues continue to try to conscript or punish Chorba. Yauhen Asiyeuski of For Alternative Civilian Service suggested to Forum 18 that Conscription Offices have a quota of young men they must conscript. In small towns like Rechitsa – in contrast to cities like Minsk - the number of young men of call-up age between 19 and 27 years old is limited, making every conscript valuable. However, Defence Ministry Spokesperson Colonel Vladimir Makarov denied to Forum 18 that Conscription Offices have a conscript quota. But officials seem to have no intention of halting attempts to conscript Chorba.