RUSSIA: Missionary's activity is

The legal representative for Takhir Talipov, an ethnic Tatar Baptist church-planter denied a residency permit in Tatarstan due to his evangelical activity in the largely Muslim republic, has told Forum 18 News Service he sees little hope that a court ruling upholding the decision will be overturned. Fyodor Dzyuba said he saw no point in attending a hearing in the case at Tatarstan's supreme court in the regional capital Kazan on 10 January: "I knew in advance we had very little chance." That verdict should be formally announced by 20 January, he added.

In a closed hearing on 1 December, a Kazan district court upheld the 13 October decision by the passport and visa department of Tatarstan's Interior Ministry not to grant the residency permit to Talipov, a Russian-born Latvian resident who has been based in Kazan since 1992.

In reaching its verdict, the district court agreed that the passport and visa department was "legally justified" in refusing residency rights to Talipov. "They simply confirmed the department's decision," Dzyuba commented to Forum 18 from Kazan on 12 January.

The verdict stated that assertions contained in an assessment by the local FSB (former KGB) constitute legitimate grounds for denying residency rights (see F18News 28 November 2003 .) In his capacity as a Baptist preacher, Talipov "tries to convert Muslims to his faith," according to the 9 October FSB assessment, and leads a religious group financed by "foreign clerical centres" which "does not have registration and functions illegally". Like the FSB, the district court concludes from this analysis that the activity of Talipov and certain members of his religious group is "extremist in character and poses a threat to the stability of the interconfessional and interethnic situation in Tatarstan".

In his 11 December appeal against this verdict to Tatarstan's supreme court, Dzyuba stressed that Talipov has never been under any kind of administrative or criminal investigation in any country.

According to Dzyuba, Talipov left Russia for Latvia on 25 November.