Monday, April 02, 2007

From Forum 18 - Russia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan

Although the Russian government seems set to pay the Moscow branch of the alvation Army the compensation due to it by 5 April in the wake of theOctober 2006 judgment at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), the ranch's lawyer Anatoli Pchelintsev says "the problem remains". He told Forum 18 News Service that the government has taken no steps to re-register the branch or to renounce official denigration of the group as a"paramilitary organisation". "If they'd wanted to sort this out, they wouldhave done so already. They had five years while our [ECHR] application was pending." The official in charge of registration of religious organisations within the Federal Registration Service, Viktor Korolev, told Forum 18 hehas yet to read the ECHR's judgment. "I've only seen what's on theInternet, not an official translation". While acknowledging that governments are required to take action to remove the causes of the human rights violations identified by the ECHR, Korolev said he has received no instructions of what to do from the Russian Council of Ministers.

29 March 2007
Summarily deported in 2001 in punishment for his religious activities withhis local Baptist congregation, Vyacheslav Kalataevsky was forced to return to Turkmenistan "illegally" after being dumped with no money or food across the border in Kazakhstan. On 12 March, while he and his wife were trying to regularise his status in his native town of Turkmenbashi (formerlyKrasnovodsk), he was arrested by the Ministry of State Security (MSS) secret police. His wife told Forum 18 News Service she has been denied access to him since his arrest. Kalataevsky faces criminal trial on charges of illegally crossing the border. MSS investigator Selbi Charyeva refused absolutely to discuss his case with Forum 18, declaring only: "He's guilty!" Another Protestant, Merdan Shirmedov, has been denied an exit visato join Wendy Lucas, the American he married last August who is nowexpecting their first child. She told Forum 18 she believes the refusal to allow her husband to leave his homeland is retaliation for the prominent role his family has in a Protestant fellowship in their home town of Dashoguz, pointing to other official harassment of the family.

27 March 2007
The written verdict on Protestant pastor Dmitry Shestakov, who has been sentenced to four years' imprisonment in an open work camp, gives a snapshot of how state control of Uzbekistan's religious communitiesoperates. The verdict, seen by Forum 18 News Service, indicates how state agencies - hokimat (local administration), the mahalla (town district) committees, the police, public prosecutor's office, courts and expert witnesses - work together to control and suppress religious communities. Inthe case of Shestakov's Full Gospel congregation, the verdict also reveals official obsession over the ethnic affiliation and social background ofthose attending the church. One state agency not mentioned is the National Security Service (NSS) secret police, although it was heavily involved in the case from the start. The verdict especially highlights the key role of the committee of the mahalla, the urban district into which towns and cities are divided. Although ostensibly elected and self-governing, mahalla committees are in practice instruments of top-down control.

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