Global Freedom of Expression

Review of the General Prosecutor Office’s Request to Declare 207 Religious Materials Extremist

Closed Contracts Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Books / Plays, Electronic / Internet-based Communication
  • Date of Decision
    July 3, 2009
  • Outcome
  • Region & Country
    Kazakhstan, Europe and Central Asia
  • Judicial Body
    First Instance Court
  • Type of Law
    Administrative Law
  • Themes
    Content Regulation / Censorship, National Security
  • Tags
    Extremist Speech

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

On July 3, 2009, a first instance court in Astana granted the prosecutor general’s request to add 207 print, audio, and digital materials to the Kazakh government’s list of extremist materials and media, and to ban their publication, import, and dissemination in Kazakhstan.

The materials included audio recordings of Sheikh Mishari Rashid—a prominent Quran reciter and Imam—reading 18 various Quranic surahs. Thus, by fully granting the prosecutor’s request, the court labeled parts of the Quran extremist and illegal in Kazakhstan.


The Prosecutor General requested the Astana City Court to declare extremist 207 various print, audio, and digital media. Allegedly, the materials propagated radical Wahhabism, belonged to Hizb-ut-Tahrir and the Muslim Brotherhood, or were published on the website “Minbar tauhid ual Jihad.”

The materials were confiscated during a raid of the residences of alleged extremists.

The court applied the following laws in its review:

  • The Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan;
  • The Law on opposing Extremism;
  • The Law on National Security; and
  • The Law on Mass Media.

Decision Overview

First, the court outlined the laws that define extremism, oppose it, and justify its opposition. The court began by declaring that Kazakhstan affirmed itself as a democratic, secular, lawful, and social country in the first article of its Constitution. The court then declared that article 2 of the Constitution affirmed the territorial sovereignty of Kazakhstan. And that article 20, paragraph 3, of the Constitution forbade propaganda and incitement of a violent overthrow of the constitutional regime and the territorial integrity of Kazakhstan.

The court defined “extremism” under article 1, paragraph 5, of the Law on Opposing Extremism as a violent overthrow of the constitutional regime; a violation of territorial integrity of the Republic; an undermining of national security; or an incitement of racial, national, tribal or religious hatred by means of violence or incitement to violence.

The court clarified that the Law on National Security, article 5, paragraph 6, listed political extremism, in all of its possible forms, including incitement of social, racial, national, religious, and tribal hatred, as a threat to national security.

The court then stated that protecting national security was one of the main ways of opposing extremism under article 4 of the Law on Opposing Extremism. The court continued to state that article 19, paragraph 1 of the Law on National Security banned activities that have the potential to undermine the unity of the people of Kazakhstan and multi-ethnic relationships.

The court explained that the Law on National Security also banned information produced by foreign media disseminated through print, TV or radio.

Lastly, the court explained that the Law on Mass Media banned propaganda and justification of extremism and the use of names of extremist organizations.

Once the applicable laws were established, the court reviewed the extremist nature of the 207 materials that the prosecution sought to ban.

The court relied on a psycho-philological review of the 207 materials and agreed with its conclusion that the materials contained elements of incitement of religious and national hatred. The court did not explain the methodology of the psycho-philological review or the foundation for its conclusion. The court also did not separate the audio recordings of Quranic surahs by Sheikh Mishari Rashid from the 207 materials or explain the reason for their inclusion. Instead, the court simply listed the review’s conclusion, for example, that 157 materials named and explained the ideology of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an extremist organization; that 22 materials included propaganda of radical Wahhabism; that two materials were produced by the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical group; etc.

Thus, heavily relying on the psycho-philological review, the court ruled that the 207 materials—including the recitations of Quranic surahs—were extremist, and banned their production and dissemination in Kazakhstan.

Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Contracts Expression

It is unclear why the government’s linguistic expert found the Quaranic surahs extremist.  But the decision suggests the following:

  • The Kazakh government’s linguistic analysis was inadequate and not individualized;
  • The linguistic experts concluded on the basis of the government’s wishes to label the materials extremist, rather than on the subject matter of the materials; or
  • The fact that the materials were found in an extremists’ residence played a major convicting role in the linguistic expert’s conclusions.

Overall, the decision portrays risks associated with subjective linguistic review of information and its potential to label widely accepted speech as extremist.

Global Perspective

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Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

National standards, law or jurisprudence

  • Kaz., Law from Feb. 2005 No. 31-III "Opposing Extremism"
  • Kaz., Law on Mass Media
  • Kaz., const., art. 1

Case Significance

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Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

This case did not set a binding or persuasive precedent either within or outside its jurisdiction. The significance of this case is undetermined at this point in time.

Additional Citations:

Official Case Documents

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