07ASTANA232, KAZAKHSTAN: NO RESPITE IN CAMPAIGN AGAINST HARE KRISHNA

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07ASTANA232 2007-01-27 05:52 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO0419
RR RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #0232/01 0270552
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 270552Z JAN 07
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8291
INFO RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 0016
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 0420
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0448

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ASTANA 000232 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR SCA/CEN (M. O'MARA) 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PREL KDEM KZ
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN: NO RESPITE IN CAMPAIGN AGAINST HARE KRISHNA 
PROPERTY 
 
REF: A. 06 ASTANA 651, B. 06 ASTANA 668, C. 06 ASTANA 903 
 
ASTANA 00000232  001.2 OF 003 
 
 
1. (SBU) Summary:  Despite the negative publicity and diplomatic 
pressure Kazakhstan received after authorities executed a surprise 
demolition of Hare Krishna homes in November 2006, local government 
officials have not relented in their campaign to confiscate the Hare 
Krishna properties.  In addition, officials in Astana have mounted a 
late diplomatic and public relations effort to mitigate the damage 
to Kazakhstan's reputation.  All told, the Hare Krishnas' political 
and legal fight to keep their property does not appear to have 
changed any minds in the government.  End summary. 
 
--------------------------------------------- 
SPECIAL COMMISSION ISSUES ITS RECOMMENDATIONS 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
2. (U) On December 22, 2006, the special Ministry of Justice 
commission charged with resolving the long-running property dispute 
(Refs B, C) held a meeting in Astana in order to issue its final 
decision. The Hare Krishnas, the Almaty Helsinki Committee, and the 
Kazakhstani International Bureau for Human Rights again questioned 
the integrity of the commission process, given that the apparent 
final decision of the commission had already been provided to the 
U.S. Embassy and was drafted without the input of all commission 
members (Ref C). 
 
3. (U) At the meeting, the commission issued a decision nearly 
identical to the one provided to post by the MFA on December 14. 
The document contained a series of recommendations to the Hare 
Krishnas and the other parties involved, and essentially told the 
Hare Krishnas to use their land and resolve their disputes in 
accordance with the law.  The decision also recommended that the 
Hare Krishnas be "objective" in their appeals to international 
organizations and the mass media.  In addition, the decision vaguely 
encouraged Karasai district officials to process the Hare Krishnas' 
land privatization (legalization) requests. (Note: The Krishnas' 
subsequent attempts to privatize the cottages at issue thus far have 
not been accepted by the local land privatization committee.  End 
note.)  The commission's decision contained no practical steps 
toward resolving the dispute. 
 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
GOVERNMENT INITIATES PUBLIC RELATIONS COUNTEROFFENSIVE 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
 
4. (U) On January 5, Amanbek Mukhashov, chairman of the special 
commission and deputy chairman of the Religious Issues Committee in 
the Ministry of Justice, held a press conference in Astana to 
discuss the commission's decision.  He was joined by representatives 
from the Procurator General's office and the Ministry of Foreign 
Affairs.  Pol FSN attended the event.  Mukhashov stressed that there 
was no religious motivation behind the Hare Krishnas legal troubles. 
 Rather, he said that the Hare Krishnas have been breaking various 
laws since they first purchased their land, including using the land 
for religious worship when it was not properly designated for such 
use.  Despite his contention that religion is not the issue, he 
noted that the Hare Krishnas' neighbors complained about loud and 
disruptive religious ceremonies on the property, and that the Hare 
Krishnas allow their cows to walk in the lake, which was insensitive 
to nearby neighbors. 
 
5. (U) The representative of the MFA said that there are no 
restrictions on religious practice in Kazakhstan, and criticized the 
Hare Krishnas for not applying to use the land as a religious 
organization.  (Note: The Hare Krishnas' use of the land for 
religious purposes was not the basis of the main lawsuit, and has 
never been cited as the reason that the local government has not 
accepted privatization applications for the cottages.  End note.) 
She noted that would the International Society for Krishna 
Consciousness has similar property problems in India itself, and 
that the Supreme Court of India is reviewing a number of cases 
concerning illegal acquisition and use of land by Krishnas.  The MFA 
official also criticized what she called the massive informational 
campaign waged by the Hare Krishnas against Kazakhstan, citing 
purported inaccuracies in their public relations efforts.  Finally, 
the MFA representative announced that the MFA had presented a 
diplomatic note to the U.S. Embassy protesting our November 30, 2006 
statement to the press regarding the demolitions. 
 
6. (U) The representative of the Procurator General's office said 
that prior legal decisions in the case were sound, and presented a 
list of laws allegedly being violated by the Hare Krishnas, 
including use of the land for religious purposes when it was 
designated for agricultural purposes.  He stressed that the Hare 
Krishnas' legal troubles were not the result of religious 
discrimination, as Hare Krishna c
ommunities are registered 
 
ASTANA 00000232  002.2 OF 003 
 
 
throughout Kazakhstan and functioning without problems. (Note:  The 
Hare Krishnas are registered in 10 oblasts [regions] throughout the 
country, and Krishna representatives confirm that they generally 
operate without government interference, aside from the long-running 
dispute over the commune outside of Almaty.  The commune is the only 
Hare Krishna property holding in the country. End note.) 
 
7. (U) The procuracy representative also announced that the Karasai 
procurator has initiated criminal forgery charges against three 
Krishna members for allegedly altering land title documents to say 
that the main plot of land was to be used for "part-time farming" 
instead of "peasant farming." (Note: The alleged forgery has long 
been a part of the government's legal case against the Hare 
Krishnas's largest parcel.  The new criminal charge is a response to 
the Krishnas' recent argument that the alleged forgery cannot serve 
as the basis for the government's civil case because the allegation 
has never been proven in a court of law.  The government is 
essentially closing a loophole in their legal argument. End note.) 
 
 
8. (U) A few news outlets, including Kazakhstan Today, 
Interfax-Kazakhstan, and the Associated Press wire services provided 
brief coverage of the press conference. 
 
------------------------------------ 
HARE KRISHNAS FACE MOUNTING PRESSURE 
------------------------------------ 
 
9. (U) In addition to the criminal forgery charges announced by the 
Procurator General's office, on January 16 Karasai district 
authorities filed a new lawsuit in the Karasai district court 
against the main parcel of Hare Krishna property.  The lawsuit again 
seeks to nullify ownership of the parcel by the Hare Krishnas, this 
time based on different alleged irregularities in the Hare Krishnas' 
acquisition of the land. 
 
10. (SBU) Hare Krishna representative Maksim Varfolomeyev reported 
to Poloff on January 22 that the Hare Krishnas were detecting 
increased signals of extra-legal harassment.  On January 19, local 
tax police began a tax inspection of the Hare Krishnas' 
organization.  According to Varfolomeyev, the tax inspections occur 
annually, but this year the tax inspector was for the first time 
accompanied by a representative of the financial police.  Moreover, 
migration police informed the Hare Krishnas that they will soon be 
investigating the legal status of Hare Krishna followers living in 
the community.  Varfolomeyev also said that maintenance and utility 
workers who regularly maintain homes in and around the commune 
informed several Krishna members that they have been instructed by 
the local akim to monitor activities in the commune. 
 
---------------------------------- 
WHAT'S NEXT FOR THE HARE KRISHNAS? 
---------------------------------- 
 
11. (SBU) In Poloff's recent conversations with Varfolomeyev and 
Govinda Swami, the Hare Krishna leaders indicated that they are at a 
loss for what to do next.  They plan to present their case in an 
open letter to President Nazarbayev, and continue to pursue 
legalization of their disputed properties and defend themselves in 
court hearings. However, Karasai district authorities continue to 
reject their applications to legalize the remaining properties, and 
the Hare Krishnas are not optimistic that the ongoing legal turmoil 
will result in a fair resolution of the issue.  Govinda Swami 
intimated that the Hare Krishnas are at a point where they might be 
willing to accept compensation for the land, and said that the group 
is searching for a mediator of sufficient stature who could 
negotiate on their behalf with the government. 
 
12. (SBU) On January 25, Poloff met with Mukhashov, who reviewed the 
government's case against the Hare Krishnas in great detail and 
raised a number of issues that were not part of the government's 
lawsuits.  The thrust of his argument was that the Hare Krishnas are 
using their main piece of property, the farmland, for religious 
purposes, which is not permissible under the law.  As for the 
private cottages, he said that many of them were never properly 
acquired by the Hare Krishnas, and several had been illegally joined 
together in violation of building codes, etc.  As in the January 5 
press conference, he claimed that the Hare Krishnas have not been 
considerate to their neighbors, and have held large religious 
gatherings without proper permission. 
 
13. (SBU) Mukhashov acknowledged that some local officials made 
negative comments about the Hare Krishnas based on their 
nontraditional religion, but he disavowed the statements and said 
they do not represent the overall opinion of the government. 
Instead, he argued that the government was motivated purely by the 
 
ASTANA 00000232  003.2 OF 003 
 
 
Hare Krishnas' multiple violations of Kazakhstani law.  He said that 
it was not too late for the Hare Krishnas to save their properties 
by remedying violations and making the appropriate applications. He 
also advised that the Hare Krishnas could file libel lawsuits 
against the local government officials who criticized their 
religion, and could file claims for compensation for their 
property. 
 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
13. (SBU) Comment: Kazakhstani authorities clearly remain committed 
to pressing the legal case against the Hare Krishnas, despite the 
diplomatic and international pressure Kazakhstan has received over 
the issue.  The lack of any effort by the government to resolve the 
situation quietly has reinforced the public impression that someone 
powerful wants the land.  Mukhashov's statement that the Hare 
Krishnas could still save their land by filing the correct paperwork 
is questionable, given that the government's argument seems to 
change and expand as time moves on.  The Hare Krishnas are rapidly 
running out of options, and may soon shift their focus to achieving 
compensation for the threatened property.  End comment. 
 
MILAS

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