(By Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service) Some 20 police officers, Prosecutor’s Office officials and Education Department officials raided a church-run children’s summer camp near Kazakhstan’s commercial capital Almaty on 30 July. Officials frightened the children and “behaved like they were detaining some criminals”, Pastor Sergei Li of Kapshagai Baptist Church complained to Forum 18 News Service. Questioning went on from morning until late in the evening. Lieutenant Colonel Bayken Shalkarov, Deputy Head of Kapshagai Police, defended the raid. “The Church taught children religion in violation of the Law,” he claimed to Forum 18. He said police are preparing administrative prosecutions, but refused to say for what “offence”. Asem Suttibayeva of Kapshagai Education Department told Forum 18 that law-enforcement agencies required young specialists of her Department to participate in the raid. Asked why her Almaty TV channel and its subsidiary Almaty News attacked the Baptist Church, Deputy Chief Editor Tatyana Lisitskaya responded: “The authorities gave us the materials for broadcast.”
About 20 officials, including from the Police and Prosecutor’s Office, raided a church-run children’s camp in Almaty Region near Kazakhstan’s commercial capital on 30 July, camp organisers complained to Forum 18 News Service. “Officials questioned the minors without the presence of their parents,” Pastor Sergei Li of Kapshagai Baptist Church told Forum 18 on 10 August. “One seven-year old girl was frightened and cried, and after that I told them to stop questioning the children.” Police questioning of children and organisers lasted from morning until late evening.
The authorities then handed materials – including video footage – to the local electronic media alleging that the camp organisers were teaching religion “illegally” (including by foreign citizens) and without the knowledge of parents, and were using suspicious drinks and chewing gum. The media included these claims in television broadcasts and online reports, to the outrage and distress of church members.
Several parents, including church member Nadezhda Kogay (who was in the camp when it was raided), told Forum 18 that they were “fully satisfied with the Church” over the conduct of the camp, and that “they gave their permission for giving their children the English lessons”.
The authorities decided not to bring criminal charges against any of the organisers, but insist they will bring administrative charges. They refused to explain to Forum 18 what charges will be brought. READ MORE