Further demolition of Hare Krishna homes in Kazakhstan seems imminent

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Tuesday, February 6, 2007

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Official pressure on the Hare Krishna community near Almaty in Kazakhstan is mounting, according to Norwegian religious rights organisation Forum 18. Following on from the demolition of homes at the end of last year three more home owners have been issued with demolition notices. If the owners fail to demolish their own houses the authorities have warned they will do so themselves and charge them for the cost.

Thirteen homes owned by members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness were bulldozed last November, although other homes in the village owned by non-Hare Krishna residents were not touched. Gauhar Beyeseyeva of the Kazakh Foreign Ministry is quoted as saying (to the members of the Hare Krishna commune) "We were denied the OSCE chairmanship specifically because of you people."

Amanbek Muhashov, the chair of the committee for religion under the justice ministry told the Kazakh daily Kazakhstanskaya Pravda that some of the group members acquired land for the settlements by giving misleading information and thus the property did not conform to local regulations. This is refuted by the members of the community.

The OSCE's Advisory Council on Freedom of Religion or Belief examined the dispute in detail last year and concluded that "state sponsored action has been focused upon members of the Hare Krishna community in a manner that suggests they have been targeted on the basis of their religious affiliation," and that "this raises serious issues regarding the enjoyment of the freedom of religion and belief." The Advisory Council also stated its "willingness to meet with the Kazakh authorities in order to discuss the situation and to extend its good offices to assist in the resolution of that dispute". The Kazakh authorities have thus far given no official answer to the Advisory Council's 27 November 2006 offer.

A. Kravchenko, the head of the prosecutor-generals denied any "religious implications" in the legal proceedings.

On 29 January Viktor Golous, Chair of the Hare Krishna Community, was summoned to a court hearing to continue the case on the ownership of the commune's farm. At the same time, demolition notices were served on three more Hare Krishna home owners, who were told that they must demolish their own homes within five days. According to Forum 18 no previous notices had been given to any of the three Hare Krishna targets in regards to any claims filed against them, court hearings or court rulings. Thus they were unable to file an appeal and defend their property.

Golous appeared in court on January 30th with request that that – due to the short notice given – the hearing should be adjourned at least until lawyers were able to appear. Judge Jurhan Zhailybayev accepted the application for an adjournment and told Golous that he could leave as notice of the new date of the hearing would be sent to him. However, after Golous left the court, Judge Zhailybayev ruled – with only one of the three defendants present – that the Hare Krishna-owned farm should, in fact, be confiscated.

Members of the 'Sri Vrindavan Dharm' community in Karasai district question who is benefiting from the confiscation of their property?

Rati Manjari of the Hare Krishnas told Forum 18 on January 20th that "by this new claim the authorities are preparing to cancel a 2005 Supreme Court decision that the Hare Krishna community are the bona fide purchaser and user of the land." She suggested that the authorities plan - "after they win this case" – to appeal to the Supreme Court to annul the Hare Krishna community's purchase and thus ownership of the land.

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