By BosNewsLife News Center in Budapest
MINSK/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife) — A Christian in Belarus has been fined the equivalent of nine months minimum wage salary for attempting to organise an informal Bible study and discussion group, Christian rights investigators said Wednesday, July 23.
Advoacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) told BosNewsLife that 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 some $150.
Under the country's legislation a new religious organisation have a minimum of twenty members over the age of eighteen to be allowed to operate. â€œHe was then fined under Article 9.9 for holding a religious meeting with less than twenty members,â€ CSW said.
The July 9 conviction came despite Boravik's statement that he had no intention of establishing a new religious group but â€œwas merely organising a meeting with other Christians to read the Bible and discuss religious questions,â€ a right which is protected under the Belarusian Constitution, CSW said.
Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of CSW, said the case â€œexemplifies 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.â€
He decsribed the ruling as â€œa travesty that these types of violations are still taking place in Europe.â€ He said the â€œBelarusian government must be pushed to respect its own laws and international commitments and to allow Belarusians to meet together and practise their faith freely.â€
The United States has described Belarus as "Europe's last dictatorship" under the rule of President Alexander Lukashenko, charges the government denies.
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