Arrested in Kazakhstan for Atheist Views
The only way you can have religious freedom, in religious extreme countries, is if you are supporting the religion of the majority.
Alexander Kharlamov, journalist and human rights activist, is facing up to 7 years in prison in Kazakhstan for “spreading atheist ideas” and “displaying negative attitude towards religion”, according to the prosecutor. The charges against the journalist in his 60s are of inciting hatred under article 164 of the criminal code. He was arrested without a warrant on March 14th.
Reporters Without Borders were appalled by the arrest and the grave charges Kharlamov faces as well as the law in itself. “There is no evidence of any incitement to hatred by this journalist in anything he wrote,” they said in defense of Kharlamov,” and, “…we urge the authorities to amend article 164 of the criminal code (on inciting hatred) because, as it stands, it allows anyone to be imprisoned just for expressing an opinion,” they added in opposition to the existing law. As of now Kazakhstan is ranked 160th out of 179 countries in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
Kharlamov heads the Secret Service, a small human rights campaigning news agency, and writes articles criticizing local authorities and media. The journalist has also written two books that were published online, and has a small blog. Experts didn’t find any evidence of enticement of hate in Kharlamov’s writing, but the judges ruled that “these actions could provoke religious hatred and the formation of a negative attitude towards religion, which will contribute to conflicts between persons.”
Rakhimberdin of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law told Forum 8 that the indictment was ambiguous and repetitive, and he added in criticism, “If there were any Judge in Ridder with a minimum degree of honesty and independence, the indictment would be rejected as absurd and unfounded, and Kharlamov be acquitted.”
Kharlamov was arrested in January for writing an article where he claimed the dishonesty of a judge on the trial of a policeman. He was warned not to talk about the case, and when he went to claim documents that the police had confiscated, he was arrested.
Bassem Yousseff, the Egyptian satirist, suffered a similar prosecution on the same month this year when he was arrested for allegedly insulting Islam and the country’s leader, President Mohammed Morsi. “Every single day in every part of the world, journalists and TV anchors are incarcerated or held up,” he told the Huffington Post, in his “press tour” after being honored as one of TIME’s 100 most influential people in the world.
Both Kharlamov and Yousseff are victims of political extremism, trying to shut up free media. In both cases, the journalists were charged for speaking against religion, why the real reason of their arrest was because of their speech against governmental institution.
Arrests only bring about more public outrage, and as Yousseff said, “I would love to be arrested every day. They gave me free publicity. I should actually split the profit.”
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