Religious freedom for Jehovah’s Witnesses restored in South Kazakhstan

Religious freedom for Jehovah’s Witnesses restored in South Kazakhstan
The Southern Kazakhstan Regional Court has restored religious freedom for Jehovah’s Witnesses in the whole Southern Kazakhstan Region. In two separate hearings the court decided to annul two previous decisions that had suspended the activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses. (Russian)

JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES OFFICE OF PUBLIC INFORMATION

For Immediate Release
November 24, 2008
(Russian)
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Religious freedom for Jehovah’s Witnesses restored in South Kazakhstan

SHYMKENT, Kazakhstan—Following a similar decision in Kyzylorda on November 13, the supervisory collegium of the Southern Kazakhstan Regional Court on November 20 restored religious freedom for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Shymkent and the whole Southern Kazakhstan Region. The Court decided in two separate hearings to annul two decisions of the courts in Shymkent and Saryagash. In August 2008, these courts had ordered the activity of local Jehovah’s Witness communities to be suspended for six months because they had gathered for worship in private houses that were not the official addresses of their legally registered organizations.

The Kazakhstan Constitution, the Law on Religion and the legally registered charters of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ communities provide for conducting religious gatherings in a variety of locations, not at the legal address only. This was recently confirmed by the General Prosecutor’s Office in a letter dated October 28, 2008, to the Religious Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Republic of Kazakhstan. The letter stated that the General Prosecutor had ordered the regional prosecutor offices in the Southern Kazakhstan and Kyzylorda regions to “take measures to protest” the court decisions against Jehovah’s Witnesses. It also advised the regional prosecutor’s offices as well as their subordinates that they “should not allow violations of the religious rights of people.”

Polat Bekzhan, the chairman of the Religious Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Kazakhstan, expressed his satisfaction with these decisions: “My wife and I have raised six children in South Kazakhstan, where we have lived and exercised our religion as Jehovah’s Witnesses since the times of the Soviet Union. We are happy that the times of religious persecution have passed and that our communities are fully cleared of the false accusations.”

Polat Bekzhan, telephone: +7 727 226 33 63
Religious Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Republic of Kazakhstan
Gregory Olds, telephone: +1-646-269-3464
Philip Brumley, telephone: +1-845-306-0711
Office of General Counsel for Jehovah’s Witnesses

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