BISHKEK -- A court in Bishkek has refused to deem publications from the Jehovah's Witnesses as extremist, rejecting a step by authorities toward completely outlawing the religious group.
The Birinchi Mai district court in the Kyrgyz capital on December 3 rejected a request by the Prosecutor-General’s Office to recognize 11 books, two brochures, and six videotapes belonging to the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Kyrgyzstan as extremist.
The materials in question were confiscated in 2019 from the religious group, which has operated in the Central Asian nation for more than 23 years, by the State Committee for National Security (UKMK).
Investigators then concluded that the materials "instigate religious hatred," while the Prosecutor-General’s Office asked the court last month to recognize the literature and videotapes as extremist and ban the group's activities in the country.
The Jehovah's Witnesses was officially registered in Kyrgyzstan in 1998. Currently, there are some 5,000 followers of the religious teaching.
Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan are the only Central Asian nations where Jehovah’s Witnesses are not officially outlawed.
In Russia, a large-scale crackdown on the religious denomination has been conducted since it was labeled as extremist and banned there in 2017.