By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
KAZAKHSTAN (ANS) -- Yegor Prokopenko - a religious prisoner of conscience in the 1970s and 1980s - has again been fined for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief.
Now 87, according to a story by Felix Corley for the Forum News Service, the agency said it believes Prokopenko to be the oldest victim of Kazakhstan's policy of fining those who conduct religious activity without state permission.
Kazakhstan is in Central Asia, with its smaller part west of the Ural River in Europe.
The case was heard on Feb. 21 2014 under Judge Anaurkhan Kalenov at Zyryanovsk Specialized Administrative Court.
"Each Sunday believers gather in a private home to meet their spiritual needs," the verdict - seen by Forum 18 - notes that Prokopenko told the court.
It continued, "They read the Bible, sing and pray. Creating a religious association is the right of believers, not an obligation. Forcing believers to create a religious association and register he considers to be a violation of the rights and freedoms of believers enshrined in Kazakhstan's Constitution."
Rejecting Prokopenko's argument, Judge Kalenov found him guilty and fined him the maximum, 100 Monthly Financial Indicators ( MFIs), 185,200 Tenge. This is about two months of an average wages for those working. As a senior citizen, Prokopenko receives far less.
The verdict claims that Judge Kalenov took into account Prokopenko's age, but also noted that he had been sentenced before for the same "offence."
Judge Kalenov defended his decision to punish an 87-year-old man for exercising his right to freedom of religion or belief.
"This is the law," he insisted to Forum 18. "His rights were explained to him in court, and he has appealed against the sentence to the Regional Court."
Judge Kalenov declined any other comment, saying he was not allowed to discuss his decisions.
For more information visit www.forum18.org