Astana, January 23, Interfax - Kazakhstan claimed on Monday that its Orthodox Christian community enjoys equal rights and that the country is a land of "ethnic and religious harmony."
"We have lived in peace and harmony for centuries. The Orthodox Church of Kazakhstan and all Orthodox believers in our country have consistently been stating their attitude to, and their assessment of, this unique achievement, ethnic and religious harmony and the rights of the Orthodox citizens of Kazakhstan," Foreign Ministry spokesman Altay Abibullayev told a briefing in Astana.
Abibullayev was commenting on the case of a family from Kazakhstan who had sought asylum in France, claiming they had been persecuted in Kazakhstan because of being Orthodox and ethnic Russian.
Vladimir Popov, Yekaterina Popova and their two children were denied asylum. French authorities kept them in detention for two weeks and repeatedly tried to deport them to Kazakhstan.
The European Court of Human Rights found France guilty of violating Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), Article 5 (right to liberty and security) and Article 8 (right to respect to private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights, and ordered France to pay the family 13,000 euros.
"The European Court of Human Rights does not accuse Kazakhstan. It is a ruling about France for departure from provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights," Abibullayev said. "At the same time, we naturally totally disagree with the actual point that Orthodox believers are persecuted in Kazakhstan."