ASIA/KAZAKHSTAN - Christians were fined for possession of "extremist books"

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Astana (Agenzia Fides) - A court in Astana has fined two Protestant Christians for possession of Christian publications, defined as "extremist material".
As reported in a note sent to Fides by the organization "Forum 18", the faithful, sanctioned in recent days, have firmly rejected the allegations. The hearing to decide whether the texts are "extremists" and prohibit the circulation, occur without warning and there is no list of "banned books", explains the Ong. The ban is part of a "tough system of religious censorship imposed by the state".
Kazakhstan has three levels of censorship on religious literature: articles and texts banned by the courts as "extremist"; texts which the religious state Agency refuses to approve the publication, importation and distribution; texts or objects which are published without an explanation.
In October, 2013, Bibles and icons were seized by the police in a shop in the city of Oral (Uralsk) and have not yet been returned. The shop owner was indicted for the sale of religious material without the permission of the state.
The Christian Presbyterian Pastor Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev, 67, has been under arrest since May 17, 2013, on charges of distributing "extremist material" which were simple leaflets on the Christian faith. Another Baptist Pastor, Gennai Vrublevsky is charged because of the possession of five "extremist" books, four in Russian and one in Kazakh, which were essays of reflection on the relations between Islam and Christianity. The courts have also banned many websites and blogs, labeling them as "extremists". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 07/01/2014)