Turkmenistan Further Baptist Fines

Six members of a Baptist congregation in the town of Khazar (formerly Cheleken) were fined in mid-January for holding "illegal services", Keston News Service has learned. The instruction to fine them came from the political police, the KNB (former KGB), the six were told. The Turkmen authorities routinely fine members of unregistered religious congregations for holding religious meetings, even if such meetings take place in private homes.

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Azerbaijan: "Overzealous" Police Try To Ban Baptist Service

Just two days after a court in the capital Baku liquidated a Baptist congregation, a local policeman in the small town of Chukhuryurd near Shemakha in central Azerbaijan tried to ban a small Baptist church from meeting, Baptist sources told Keston News Service. "He had heard the news of the Baku church's liquidation on ANS television and came to the local elder last Friday [5 April] and told him the church could not meet on Sunday for worship," Ilya Zenchenko, head of the Baptist Union in Azerbaijan, told Keston from Baku on 10 April. "We told the church elder on Saturday the policeman had been overzealous and exceeded his powers and that his demands for the church not to meet had no legal basis."

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Azerbaijan: "Don't complain to Foreigners", Religion Chief Tells Believers

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service As believers who claim their rights have been violated by the state authorities debate and argue over the best way to resolve such violations, Keston News Service has discovered that Rafik Aliev, chairman of the State Committee for Relations with Religious Organisations, has repeatedly warned believers not to take ... Read more

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Azerbaijan: Police Order Protestant's Deportation

On the day Baku's Protestant Greater Grace church was celebrating Easter, police in the city's central Sabail district tried to forcibly deport a church member, alleging that she had been conducting religious "propaganda". One of the church's pastors, Musfig Bayram, told Keston News Service from Baku that police took Nina Koptseva, a Russian citizen who has a residence permit to live in Baku, to the city's railway station on Sunday morning (31 March), bought her a ticket to the Russian border and tried to place her on the train without any court decision. It was only when she screamed loudly and insisted that if she had to leave she could buy an airline ticket to Russia herself that police halted the attempt and returned her to the cells in the Sabail district police station. Koptseva is now slated for deportation today (1 April) by air.

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Belarus: Baptists Fined for Singing Hymns

Three Baptists have been fined for taking part in a street outreach in the town of Lepel in the north-eastern region of Vitebsk and a further six were given official warnings, Keston News Service has learnt in a statement from local Baptists. At their 6 June trial, two other Baptists were acquitted. Reached by telephone in Lepel on 11 June, the judge in the case, Nikolai Kozlovsky, refused to explain why the Baptists had been put on trial. "We don't give out information by telephone," he told Keston, before putting down the telephone. The town's police chief, Konstantin Borovik, reached by telephone the same day, also refused to explain. "The Baptists violated the law," was all he would tell Keston.

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Belarus: Repressive Religion Bill Sneaked Through Parliament

The campaign group For Freedom of Conscience has described as "a bolt from out of the blue" the sudden adoption by parliament yesterday (27 June) of a repressive religion bill that only a day earlier had been postponed until the autumn (see KNS 26 June 2002). "Yesterday, when I learnt that consideration of the draft law had been postponed until the autumn I thought that common sense had prevailed among the deputies," German Rodov, head of the Bible Society, declared in a 27 June statement passed to Keston News Service. "But today I have the impression that in taking these decisions the deputies are completely ignoring the views of tens of thousands of Belarusian citizens. This law is a fiasco for the Chamber of Representatives as a parliament and testimony to its bankruptcy." Religious minorities in Belarus now fear President Aleksandr Lukashenko will sign the bill into law today, the last day of the parliamentary session.

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Kazakhistan: Baptist Arrested For Distributing Literature

A Baptist from the town of Turkestan in Chimkent region of southern Kazakhstan, Tursunbai Auelbekov, was in the town's Kuanysh market distributing free copies of Kazakh-language religious literature from the Evangelical-Christian Baptist Church on 23 January when he was arrested by police, Keston News Service has learned. According to the law enforcement agencies, since the Baptist church is not registered at the justice department of the Turkestan administration, its followers do not have the right to carry out any activity in the town, which is 165 kms (100 miles) north-west of Chimkent, or the surrounding district.

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