TARAZ, Kazakhstan — A growing number of Baptist congregations in Taraz, Kazakhstan, are being scrunitized by state police. Some worship meetings are being raided, resulting in officials being cited and fined for “meeting without state permission.”
Other encounters are resulting in the participants being taken to the police station to be photographed and fingerprinted. Their personal information and addresses also are recorded.
At least four individuals also have been fined for saying “amen” aloud in mosques during prayers.
The power to impose summary fines without initial due process was first given to police under the 2015 revision of the Code of Administrative Offenses. Such fines are first known to have been imposed in 2016, also against Baptists.
It is possible to challenge police-imposed fines through the courts or a prosecutor’s office. However, this process is more difficult (as with court convictions) than lodging an appeal to a higher court against a lower court decision.
The official group representing Baptists in the area has adopted a policy of civil disobedience, refusing to pay fines imposed to punish them for exercising their human rights. Many who refuse to pay such fines are then placed on Kazakhstan’s exit blacklist which prevents them from leaving the country. Some have property confiscated, such as washing machines or cars. Others have restraining orders placed on property, such as homes, cars or calves, preventing them from selling or disposing of them. (F18)