A further two foreign citizens legally resident in Kazakhstan – one Polish and the other Kyrgyz – were ordered deported by the courts in late 2013 for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief, Forum 18 News Service has learned. One had preached at a Jehovah’s Witness meeting, the other had discussed his faith with two interested young people in a private flat. Court hearings that might lead to the deportation of another, a Russian citizen, are likely to begin in Kazakhstan’s commercial capital Almaty on 4 February.
Two other religious leaders are known to have been deported in 2013 despite having valid residency. Baptist pastor Viktor Lim was fined and ordered deported for leading a registered religious community and left Kazakhstan in August 2013. Lim, a stateless person, had lived in the country for 20 years and his wife and children are Kazakh citizens. The authorities classed his action as “illegal missionary activity”. In addition, Protestant Pastor Vyacheslav Li (whose wife and two young children are Kazakh citizens) was deported in July 2013 after committing eight administrative offences in the eight years he lived legally in Kazakhstan.
Asked about why foreign citizens legally resident in Kazakhstan are targeted for deportation for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief in a non-professional capacity, Sadvokasov responded: “It is your opinion that this is a restriction of their rights.” He insisted that any action against such individuals is not by his Agency but by “law-enforcement” agencies and in line with the Religion Law.
Forum 18 read Sadvokasov part of the court decision in the case of Polish citizen Robert Panczykowski where a Police Anti-Extremism officer targeted him simply because he was addressing a meeting within a religious community “with an accent”. Sadvokasov dismissed suggestions that this amounted to racism. Stressing that he was not familiar with the case, he insisted that there is “no racism” in Kazakhstan and that “no discrimination on the basis of language or race” occurs.