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UN call for prisoner of conscience’s release: On 31 October a Council of Churches Baptist, Yuri Bekker, was given a criminal conviction for refusal to pay a fine imposed in 2016 for handing out religious literature on the street. He was given a one-year suspended prison sentence, one year’s restricted rights, and ordered to pay fines and a fee for a state “expert analysis” of his own Christian books. He also faces the theat of losing his home and of being jailed. Bekker told Forum 18 that he will not pay the fine as he was only exercising his constitutional rights and he did not ask the state to analyse his own books (see below).

On 13 October Jehovah’s Witnesses filed an appeal to the Supreme Court for the acquittal and release of prisoner of conscience Teymur Akhmedov, a cancer sufferer who was tortured and jailed in May for five years and banned for a further three years from conducting “ideological/preaching activity”. The 61-year-old bus driver was accused of “inciting religious hatred” when he shared his beliefs with KNB secret police informers. The United Nations (UN) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has publicly stated that Kazakhstan should “release Mr. Akhmedov immediately and accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law”. A Supreme Court official refused to tell Forum 18 if this would happen (see below).

First criminal conviction for failure to pay fine

On 31 October a Council of Churches Baptist, Yuri Bekker, was given a criminal conviction for refusal to pay fines imposed in 2015 and later for handing out religious literature on the street. Judge Galiya Baktygulova of Zhaksy District Court in the northern Akmola Region imposed a one-year suspended prison sentence on Bekker under Criminal Code Article 430 Part 1. This bans failure to fulfil a court decision over a period of more than six months or interfering with such a decision, with a penalty of imprisonment or restricted rights for up to three years.

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