2017-07-19 17:35:00

Kazakhstan not planning to ban Jehovah's Witnesses - minister

Astana, July 19, Interfax - The operations of the Almaty unit of the international religious organization Jehovah's Witnesses have been suspended for three months due to failure to observe anti-terrorist protection rules, but there are no plans to ban it in Kazakhstan, Nurlan Yermekbayev, Kazakhstan's Minister for Religious and Civil Society Affairs, told a briefing in Astana on Wednesday.

"It's a fairly mild form of punishment for failure to observe anti-terrorist protection rules in religious establishments," the minister said.

Violation of the anti-terrorist protection rules was registered by a special commission of law enforcement and security officials," Yermekbayev said.

"They found that those rules were not observed there. They issued an order, but no actions were taken on time and therefore the materials were forwarded to court, and the court made a decision to suspend the operations for three months. If these problems are fixed, the religious organization can continue its operation," Yermekbayev said.

The organization "continues operating calmly" in the other regions of the country, he said.

"The Jehovah's Witnesses religious association is a religious association officially registered in Kazakhstan and therefore it operates in accordance with the legislation. Our position is that this organization is not extremist and there are currently no plans to close it or put any other pressure on it in Kazakhstan," he said.

"There is one demand - the observance of the legislation," the minister said.

In the meantime, the Moscow Supreme Court on April 20 found Russia's Jehovah's Witnesses to be an extremist organization and banned its activity in Russia in line with the Justice Ministry lawsuit. According to the court decision, Jehovah Witnesses' Management Center in Russia head organization and 395 of its regional branches were closed. The organization's property reverted to the state.