Kazakhstan Religions Agency: Grace is outside framework 05 февраля 2014, 18:04
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The Agency for Religious Affairs of Kazakhstan that is responsible for inter-religious relations and accord has taken a neutral position of an observer in the Grace church case, Tengrinews reports.
“The case of Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev, a pastor of the Grace church, is based on the complaint filed with the police (by the family of one of the church members) and is a private affair that is outside of the agencies framework. Interference of the agency in this lawsuit is not viable,” the Vice_Chairman of the Agency Galym Shoikin told the journalists.
When asked whether the Agency would withdraw the registration of the religious association of which the Grace church is part of, Mr. Shoikin said that it all depends on the court's decision. He added that at the moment the issue is not about the whole organization, but only about its individual representative.
Speaking about legal proceedings against other representatives of various religious organizations Mr. Shoikin said that those cases had to be examined separately considering the specifics and individuals involved in these cases.
In January, a Baptist Maxim Kandyba, 19 was arrested and detained for 10 days, because he refused to pay a fine for arranging a religious worship service for the church that did not have an official registration with the Kazakhstan authorities. Another Baptist Pavel Leonov was also arrested for the same violation. In Akmola region, two more believers were detained for 48 hours. All in all, in 2013 there were around 199 people held liable for participation in religious worship services and distribution of religious materials.
“If members of one of the religious associations are violating the law more and more, then certainly there eventually will be a question of liability of the religious association itself, ” he said.
He also mentioned that some of the religious organizations that were denied registration by the authorities have found a way around this law.
Kazakhstan legislation prohibits operation of unregistered religious communities, and in case of violation of the law they can be held administratively liable - face a fine. However, some of the banned religious organizations have got themselves a registration as non-governmental organizations. Scientologists in Kazakhstan are one of the smart examples.
“As for the scientologists, they are registered as a non-governmental social organization here. As such, they have a right to operate,” Mr. Shoikin added.
The first hearing on the case of Grace church pastor Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev took place in Astana earlier this year. The 67 y.o. pastor who has spent 8 month in confinement and was accused of extremism and leading an organization that harm people. But to everyone's surprise the Prosecutors dropped both this charges at the hearing calling them groundless. The next hearing was scheduled for February 3. It was expected that this would be a bail hearing that would get the elderly pastor our of prison and under home arrest.
However neither the pastor nor his lawyer chose to attend that hearing out of protest against their judge who declined to recurse herself at the previous hearing. However their absence stopped nothing. When the pastor's lawyer dropped by to file a motion he found himself replaced with a public defendant who name has not been revealed to the media. The Pastor was not aware that he had a new lawyer acting on his behalf in court.
The hearing went on behind closed doors so there is no information on the motions filed or decisions made.