The government prohibited religious groups and clergy from interfering in the activities of government institutions. Members of law enforcement and security services actively enforced restrictions on religious freedom while investigating alleged religious extremism. The government also enforced strict registration requirements for religious groups. The government ascribed “extremist agendas” to some groups, including politically active Muslim groups whose members it labeled “Wahhabists.”
In October a court in Osh acquitted Oksana Koriankina and her mother, Nadezhda Sergienko, two Jehovah’s Witnesses under house arrest since April 2013 on charges of defrauding three elderly women of their life savings. In his decision, the judge noted that the prosecutor unfairly referred to Jehovah’s Witness as a “sect.” In November the prosecutor appealed the trial court’s decision. The two women were forbidden from leaving the city of Osh until the court heard the prosecutor’s appeal, scheduled for January 2015.
On April 30, the SCRA banned the Church of Scientology for distributing religious materials in unlicensed areas. On March 14, the Pervomaisky District Court of Bishkek ruled to ban the Akromiya religious movement, stating that it was an extremist organization.
On September 4, the Constitutional Chamber ruled that a section of the religion law, requiring a group have 200 adult citizen members before a registration application could be approved, was unconstitutional. Prior to this ruling, authorities repeatedly denied registration of Jehovah’s Witness groups in Osh, Naryn, Jalal-Abad, and Batken on grounds that the local city councils refused to approve the list of founding members. This requirement for 200 adult citizen members reportedly was also used by the SCRA.
There were 2,575 officially registered religious groups and educational establishments. According to the Open Viewpoint Foundation, a central-Asian based nongovernmental organization (NGO), and Freedom House, the SCRA frequently refused to inform religious groups about why it denied their registration or reregistration.
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church in the country, Bishop Feodosy, left Bishkek in July after numerous inspections from the SCRA during the first half of the year. Eventually, the SCRA refused to extend his term of residence in Kyrgyzstan, saying that he submitted registration documents after the deadline. Feodosy was replaced by a new head and no further problems were reported.
On July 10, the Supreme Court upheld a January 2013 ruling denying the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Mission the right to register as a religious group. Because Ahmadis were denied registration, members could not legally congregate, pray, or hold any ceremonies.
The Open Viewpoint Foundation stated that certain religious communities complained that authorities used discrepancies in existing legislation as an excuse to avoid registering them or to force them to reregister, which was typically a lengthy process. As a result, some groups reportedly abandoned the effort to register.
Law enforcement officials classified 302 persons as members of religious extremist organizations in Bishkek: 144 as HT members and 158 Salafis. Law enforcement authorities arrested 145 members of groups which they deemed extremist and investigated 181 crimes considered committed by extremists. Forty-eight percent of investigations took place in the South. Twelve percent were in Bishkek.
The government continued to restrict the activities of Muslim groups it considered threats to security. For example, it classified the banned HT as extremist, although the group’s philosophy professed nonviolence and its members committed no violent acts. Membership in HT as well as any activity on behalf of the group remained illegal and authorities used their powers broadly to enforce the ban. The Ministry of Interior (MOI) estimated there were 3,000 HT members and 20,000 supporters in the country. Human rights activists and attorneys noted a sharp rise in the first half of this year in arrests and investigations of suspected HT members. The MOI reported that arrests of HT members increased by 20 percent compared to 2012 when authorities arrested 1,822 HT members, detained 40 HT members for trial, and sentenced 23 to prison terms. HT members were mostly active in the South, where 70 percent of the arrests of HT members occurred. The authorities also observed HT activity in Talas and Chui Provinces.
Attorneys handling HT cases stated that members of the State Committee on National Security arrived at homes claiming to have a search warrant, which they did not, entered the home, located or “planted” printed material promoting HT, and arrested the suspect. Overall, law enforcement officials seized 719 electronic texts, 1,202 pieces of “extremist” literature, and more than 2,000 leaflets.
The government prosecuted some conscientious objectors who refused military service and who also refused to make monetary contributions to the MOD; however, 12 Jehovah’s Witnesses were acquitted as a result of the November 2013 Supreme Court ruling that allowed them to perform alternative military service, including civic activities. According to this ruling, cases previously filed against Jehovah’s Witnesses for failure to perform military service would be dismissed.
In February President Atambayev chaired a Defense Council meeting, involving representatives of the newly established Muslim Council, the SCRA, State National Security Committee, law enforcement agencies, the Presidential Administration, and parliament to discuss the relationship between the state and religious groups. Following the meeting, the president issued a decree increasing state oversight of rulings by the Muslim Council. This decree led to the formation of a working group to investigate ways of implementing the ideas of religious experts.