By Worthy News Europe Bureau in Budapest
DUSHANBE/BUDAPEST (Worthy News)-- Members of a Baptist congregation in Tajikistan's capital Dushanbe have appealed to the City Court against a ban on their activity, which was apparently imposed because they meet in a private home without state registration, Worthy News learned Wednesday, December 2.
Judge Soliya Ismailova of Somoni District Court, who handed down the ban, defended her decision and denied that this violated the Baptists' freedom of worship. "The Law demands that all non-government organisations register," she said in a statement distributed by the news service of rights group Forum 18.
The court-imposed ban came after an October 9 raid on a Baptist church service by authorities and security forces, Forum 18 said.
Baptist Christians have reportedly said they are “continuing to meet for worship despite the ban.” State control of religious activity has been steadily tightening in 2009, including through a new Religion Law, according to observers.
News of the ban followed news that elsewhere in the region, in Kazakhstan, a Kazakh-born Christian leader holding a German passport faces deportation after local officials reportedly objected to a worship service.
Forum 18 said authorities wanted to "punish" Viktor Leven, a married father of six children, for leading a worship service of a Council of Churches Baptist congregation in Akmola Region.
Christians have reported an increase in government-backed raids and other measures targeting independent groups and churches in several former Soviet countries, including Tajikistan and Kazakhstan.