Kazakh appeal court overturns Bible destruction order

April 17, 2013 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia, Persecution

An appeal court in Kazakhstan has overturned a ruling that 121 pieces of Christian literature, including Bibles, that were seized from a street evangelist be destroyed.

BooksKazakhstan, April 15, 2013: The controversial decision provoked widespread outrage among Christians and civil rights defenders in Kazakhstan and attracted negative publicity around the world. This is believed to have had an influence on the appeal court’s decision on 26 March to cancel the ruling.

The Bibles and other books and leaflets about the Christian faith had been confiscated from Vyacheslav Cherkasov, a Christian from Shchuchinsk, who was detained by police on 20 October 2012.

On 5 March he was found guilty of violating the country’s harsh rules regarding the importing, publishing and distribution of religious literature, and fined 86,550 Tenge (£380; US$574) – the equivalent of around one month’s average wage in Kazakhstan.

Vyacheslav appealed against the ruling, insisting that it was his constitutional right to distribute religious literature to those who wanted it. While the order to destroy the Bibles and Christian literature was lifted, the fine was upheld.

Vyacheslav said, “Thank God they didn’t destroy my books.”

The confiscated items were returned to the evangelist, but he said that Christian literature taken from him on an earlier occasion had not been. A further legal case is being prepared against Vyacheslav; the date of the hearing is not yet known. He has repeatedly been stopped by police for offering religious literature on the streets.

GRANDMOTHERS FINED

Elsewhere in Kazakhstan, seven members of a small church in Ayagoz have been fined 86,500 Tenge for taking part in an unregistered religious meeting at a private home. Two of them are elderly women: Valentina Dyakova (77) and Raisa Bakenova (76). A case against an eighth member is still pending.

The prayer gathering was raided by police on 4 April. It was the second time this year that a meeting of the church has been raided. The pastor, Pavel Leonov, was fined 173,100 Tenge (£747; US$1,147) for “leadership of an unregistered or banned social or religious organisation” following a raid on 28 February. He appealed against the penalty, but his appeal was rejected on 1 April.

Pastor Leonov was sentenced to one day’s detention in April 2009 after he refused to pay a fine issued for leading unregistered worship.

– barnabas team

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