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Belarusian Christian fined for organising Bible study

23 Jul 2008

A Belarusian Christian has been fined the equivalent of nine months minimum wage salary for attempting to organise an informal Bible study and discussion group.
On June 9 2008, the Grodno Regional Court declared Valentin Borovik guilty of violating Article 14 of the Belarusian Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religion (LFCR) and Article 9.9 of the Administrative Violations Code and fined him 315,000 rubles (approximately '75).
A somewhat convoluted legal strategy was used to prosecute Boravik. He was originally accused of violating Article 14 of the LFCR, which stipulates that in order to establish a new religious organisation there must be a minimum of twenty members over the age of eighteen. He was then fined under Article 9.9 for holding a religious meeting with less than twenty members.
This conviction under Article 14 of the LFCR comes despite the fact that Boravik has explained that he had no intention of establishing a new religious group but was merely organising a meeting with other Christians to read the Bible and discuss religious questions, a right which is protected under the Belarusian Constitution.
Borovik was originally found guilty of organising a religious meeting without state permission by a Belarusian court on 16 March 2008 after he was "caught" organising an informal Bible study and discussion group for a small group of Christians.
One month later on 28 April, a Mostu City Court declared Borovik guilty of violating Article 14 of the LFCR and Article 9.9 of the Administrative Violations Code. The court fined Boravik 140,000 BYR, the equivalent of four months minimum wage.
On May 22, the Grodno Regional Court of the Grodno region rescinded the decision of the Mostu City Court and declared its intention to review the case. Unfortunately, as stated above, the Grodno Regional Court subsequently found Borovik guilty and more than doubled the original fine.
Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of CSW, said, "This case exemplifies the difficulties faced by Christians in Belarus. Mr. Borovik wanted nothing more than to meet together with fellow believers to study and discuss his faith, a right that most of us in Western Europe take for granted. It is a travesty that these types of violations are still taking place in Europe. The Belarusian government must be pushed to respect its own laws and international commitments and to allow Belarusians to meet together and practise their faith freely."



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