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KAZAKHSTAN: Christian women fined for praying with hospice patients

Kazakhstan

Lyudmila Kerbele, Nadezhda Krasilnikova and Lidiya Kosatova, all pensioners between the ages of 61 and 72 – are members of Rodnik Baptist Church in Oskemen (Ust-Kamenogorsk). For many years the church has helped residents of the privately-run Zhandauren Hospice with clothes, wheelchairs and medicines.

“The place is quite poor, sad and depressing,” one church member told Forum 18 from Oskemen, “and the 100 or so lonely elderly residents rarely have any visitors. Some of them live there for years, forsaken by their children or relatives, either unable to care for themselves or having no other place to live, and some require round the clock care.” The church member stressed that the owners, management and staff are “very kind, hard working and dedicated people” doing all that they can to provide care for their residents.

Praying at hospice residents’ request

On the afternoon of 14 October, the three women brought tea and sweets for the residents, talking to and praying with some of them and offering copies of the New Testament.

“Our ladies only visited and met with those who invited them to come,” the church member added. “They did not impose themselves or their care on anyone, nor did they create any disturbance. The staff (particularly the head manager) were always open and happy to see them and others from Rodnik there and had no objections.”  (more…)

KAZAKHSTAN: Will Elderly Christians Face Punishment For Praying

Kazakhstan

KAZAKHSTAN: By Felix Corley, Forum 18—On 25 August, a Judge in East Kazakhstan Region will decide whether to fine seven members of a Baptist congregation for meeting for worship without state permission. Two of the seven are aged 79, a decade younger than another Baptist fined in 2016.

In hearings throughout the morning of 25 August, Judge Aigul Saduakasova in East Kazakhstan Region is set to decide whether or not to punish seven local Baptists for meeting for worship without state permission. Their small congregation was raided twice in early August. Two of those facing possible fines – Olga Berimets and Zoya Tobolina – are 79 years old.

If punished, the 79-year-old pensioners would not be the oldest known victims of such punishments for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief. On 22 May, at the age of 89 and a half, former Soviet-era Baptist prisoner of conscience Yegor Prokopenko was again fined for leading a meeting for worship in Zyryanovsk in East Kazakhstan Region. A police officer fined him 100 Monthly Financial Indicators (MFIs), 212,100 Tenge. This represents about seven weeks’ average wages for those in work, but far more for pensioners like Prokopenko (see F18News 14 June 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2188).

Yakov Skornyakov – another Baptist and former Soviet-era freedom of religion or belief prisoner of conscience – was also 79 when he was given a massive fine for his religious activity in 2006, two years before his death (see F18News 13 April 2006http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=759).

Meanwhile, two Baptist Churches which belong to the Baptist Union in West Kazakhstan Region were raided by officials in early July as they held summer camps for local children. Officials and local journalists they brought along claim the churches were attracting young people, that children might have been present at a religious event without their parents’ consent and that foreigners were present as “missionaries” without having the required state permission. The raids left the children feeling “frightened”, the pastor complained (see forthcoming F18News article).

“Civil disobedience”

More than 25 individuals are known to have been fined in the first half of 2016 for exercising the right to freedom of religion and belief without state permission. The known victims were Muslims, Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses and commercial traders (see F18News 15 July 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2199).

Council of Churches Baptists have adopted a policy of “civil disobedience”, refusing to pay fines for exercising their human rights without state permission. Prokopenko has refused to pay his latest fine, and – if punished – the seven Baptists in East Kazakhstan Region similarly seem likely to refuse to pay.

Many Baptists who refuse to pay such fines are then place on Kazakhstan’s exit blacklist, preventing them from leaving the country. Some have property confiscated, such as washing machines or cars. Others have restraining orders placed on property, such as homes, cars or calves, preventing them from selling or disposing of them (see F18News 13 May 2016http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2177).

Raids on meetings for worship

On 7 August, Police raided a small Baptist congregation as it met for Sunday worship in a home in the village of Kalbatau in Zharma District of East Kazakhstan Region, local Baptists complained to Forum 18 on 16 August. When the service was over and church members were leaving, officers began to question them about what had happened.

The home owner, Yakov Frizen, put the elderly church members in his car to take them to their homes. However, police officers ordered him to take them to the local police station. He refused, and took them to their homes. Officers followed in their car and, having summoned another vehicle, took all those who had been present to the police station. They ordered Frizen to follow their car also.

Police Investigator Erzhan Donenbayev ordered 83-year-old Andrei Berimets, 79-year-old Olga Berimets, and 79-year-old Zoya Tobolina, as well as home owner Frizen and another church member Natalya Kvach to write statements. Then, after returning their identity documents, allowed them to leave the police station.

Police officers then visited three other people in their homes, Yevgeny Seleznev, Nina Gurzhueva and Shezhana Bondarenko. Gurzhueva and Bondarenko are not church members but attend worship services. All three were forced to write statements, church members told Forum 18.

Several days later, eight of those present were summoned to the District Akimat (administration). At least seven of the eight were handed records of an offence under Administrative Code Article 490, Part 1.

Article 490, Part 1 punishes “Violation of the demands established in law for the conducting of religious rites, ceremonies and/or meetings; carrying out of charitable activity; the import, production, publication and/or distribution of religious literature and other materials of religious content (designation) and objects of religious significance; and building of places of worship and changing the designation of buildings into places of worship” with fines for individuals of 50 MFIs.

The church held a further meeting for worship at Frizen’s home on 11 August, with guests from Germany and Russia. During the worship meeting, several police cars full of officers waited outside. After the meeting was over, officers asked permission to come into the yard, then demanded the identity documents of the foreigners present. Officers videoed the foreigners’ passports.

As the foreign guests were leaving the village, police detained them. They ordered two of them to write statements. Police officers visited an elderly church member and again asked what had happened at the worship meeting.

“How can the police have raided a private home?”

The duty police officer at Kalbatau police station – who did not give his name – told Forum 18 on 17 August that Investigator Donenbayev is on holiday, as was Police Chief Rolan Orazgaliyev. Asked why his fellow officers had raided the Baptist congregation twice, the officer responded: “How can the police have raided a private home?” He refused to answer any further questions and put the phone down.

Meirambek Kameshev, who is in charge of supervising local religious communities at the District Akimat’s Internal Policy Department, said that he had prepared the records of an offence against seven church members. “If the Police get any more statements, they will hand them over,” he told Forum 18 on 17 August. “But I don’t think cases will be brought against any of the others.”

Asked why anyone should be punished for holding or attending a meeting for worship, Kameshev insisted that the law bans such meetings and those violating this should be punished. “We all have to submit to our laws,” he insisted to Forum 18.

Asked if the church members would have faced cases had they met to drink vodka, watch football on television or read Pushkin’s poetry, Kameshev responded: “Of course not. But there is a great difference between that and religious activity.” He declined to explain what the “great difference” is. “If they simply registered and then met for worship, the police would have no complaint.”

Told that the church – like other Council of Churches Baptist congregations – chooses not to seek legal status and that meeting without state permission is protected under Kazakhstan’s international human rights commitments, Kameshev disagreed. “I didn’t say that they’re causing any harm, but let them register and then pray.”

25 August court hearings

The seven administrative cases – against Bondarenko, Olga Berimets, Gurzhueva, Kvach, Seleznev, Tabolina and Frizen – were handed to Zharma District Court. On 17 August, Judge Aigul Saduakasova, who is due to hear the cases, set the hearings to take place at half-hourly intervals from 9.30 am on 25 August, according to court records seen by Forum 18.

The court chancellery confirmed to Forum 18 on 17 August that seven church members are facing cases brought by the District Internal Policy Department.

KAZAKHSTAN: “What right do authorities have to scare our children?”

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(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

 

KAZAKHSTAN: Fourteenth known 2014 short-term prison term

Kazakhstan

(Forum 18) On 18 August, Council of Churches Baptist Nikolai Novikov became the 14th individual known to have been given a short-term prison sentence in Kazakhstan this year for refusing to pay an earlier fine imposed to punish him for refusing to seek state permission to exercise the right to freedom of religion or belief, Forum 18 News Service notes. He served five days in prison in West Kazakhstan Region, a month after a fellow Baptist in East Kazakhstan Region served a ten-day prison term on the same charges.

Meanwhile, a husband and wife are the latest individuals known to have been fined for talking to others about their faith without the compulsory state permission.

Administrative prosecution of members of a Pentecostal church in Pavlodar for unregistered religious activity related to a rehabilitation centre seem likely. The moves appear to be part of a behind-the-scenes official campaign against communities regarded as “non-traditional”, especially
those running social projects, as revealed in a September letter from East Kazakhstan’s deputy regional prosecutor, seen by Forum 18 (see forthcoming Forum 18News article).

In two letters to the United Nations Human Rights Council, Kazakhstan’s government has vigorously rejected any criticism over its punishments for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief. It also justified its restrictions on exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief, claiming they “fully meet international standards of human rights and freedoms” (see below).

Galym Shoikin, Chair of the Culture and Sport Ministry’s Religious Affairs Committee, refused to discuss anything on 8 October. He put the phone down as soon as Forum 18 identified itself. (The Religious Affairs Committee was created in a government reorganization on 6 August which abolished the Agency of Religious Affairs.)

“Offences” and punishments

Typical violations of the harsh 2011 Religion Law which end up in fines are distributing religious literature without the compulsory state licence,
talking to other people about religion without compulsory personal registration as a “missionary”, and meeting with others for worship or other religious purposes without compulsory state registration. More than 150 such fines are known to have been handed down in 2013, and more than 45 in the first ten weeks of 2014 alone (see F18News 13 March 2014 <http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1937>).

Speaking in the capital Astana on 19 September, the head of the presidential Human Rights Commission Kuanish Sultanov put the number of administrative cases to punish individuals for religious activity opened so far in 2014 at 92, with 71 individuals being fined, “Kazakhstanskaya
Pravda” newspaper noted the following day. He put the figure for 2013 at 282 administrative cases, with 199 individuals being fined. The report
gives no indication that Sultanov objects to such punishments.

Punishments are handed down under Article 374-1 and Article 375 of the current Administrative Code, and seem set to continue under the new
Administrative Code, which mostly comes into force on 1 January 2015 (see F18News 21 July 2014 <http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1979>).

Fines are generally 50 or 100 Monthly Financial Indicators (MFIs). Equivalent to about two months’ average wages for those in work, 100 MFIs is currently 185,200 Tenge (6,500 Norwegian Kroner, 800 Euros or 1,000 US Dollars).

The “offences” and punishments under the current Article 374-1 (“Leading, participating in, or financing an unregistered, halted, or banned religious community or social organisation”) have been transferred unchanged into the new Administrative Code’s Article 489, Parts 9, 10 and 11.

The “offences” and punishments under the current Article 375 (“Violating the Religion Law”) have been transferred across to the new Administrative Code’s Article 490. Some penalties have been increased and a new “offence” of “spreading the teachings of a religious group which is not registered in Kazakhstan” added.

Like Sultanov, Kazakhstan’s presidentially-appointed Human Rights Ombudsperson, Askar Shakirov, similarly dismissed the concerns of those
given such administrative punishments. His report for 2013, made public on 3 June 2014, he noted that many of the 34 applications to his Office about freedom of religion or belief violations concerned such punishments. His response to such applications was “to explain the norms of national legislation on religious activity and the necessity of observing them”.

Ten-day imprisonment

Council of Churches Baptist Anatoly Stakhnev served a ten-day prison term in July for refusing to pay a fine of 50 MFIs for his role in a
congregation that refuses to seek state permission to meet for worship, handed down on 31 January under Administrative Code Article 374-1, Part 2 (see F18News 13 March 2014 <http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1937>).

Like the civil disobedience adopted by other Council of Churches Baptists, Stakhnev considered the fine unjust and refused to pay. Court bailiffs
launched proceedings against him on 4 July.

On 11 July, Judge Gibrat Valiyev of Semei Specialised Administrative Court handed down the ten-day prison sentence on Stakhnev, according to the verdict seen by Forum 18. He was given the maximum term under Administrative Code Article 524 (“Failure to carry out court decisions”).

Five-day imprisonment

On 18 August, Judge Botagoz Nurmagambetova of Oral (Uralsk) Specialised Administrative Court in West Kazakhstan Region found Council of Churches Baptist Novikov guilty of violating Administrative Code Article 524. She sentenced him to five days’ imprisonment to start from that afternoon, according to the verdict seen by Forum 18.

Novikov had refused to pay a fine of 50 MFIs handed down by Akzhaik District Court in May 2013. In February 2014, court bailiffs in Oral visited his home and put a restraining order on his car (see F18News 11 November 2013 <http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1895>).

On 18 August, court bailiff Yerkebulan Andakulov drew up a record of an offence under Article 524 and presented the case to court. The record –
seen by Forum 18 – notes that he had taken “forcible measures” against Novikov, including by imposing restraining orders on his property.

Novikov told the 18 August hearing that he would not pay the fine as he did not agree with it. The verdict notes that he had also refused to sign any documents related to the case.

Novikov is also on the Justice Ministry’s exit blacklist for refusing to pay administrative fines. Andakulov, the court bailiff in Oral who had
brought Novikov to court and had him placed on the exit ban list, defended his action. “It was all done according to the law,” he insisted to Forum 18 from Oral on 7 October. “He was fined and didn’t pay.”

Told that Novikov refused to pay because he did not feel it was right that he had been punished for exercising his right to freedom of religion or
belief and asked why he should be punished further by being banned from leaving Kazakhstan, Andakulov responded: “This is not something I can discuss by phone.”

14 short-term prisoners

The 14 individuals known to have been given short-term jail terms so far in 2014 under Article 524 are:

1. Vyacheslav Cherkasov; CC Baptist; 9 January Burabai District Specialised
Administrative Court; 2 days.

2. Zhasulan Alzhanov; CC Baptist; 9 January Burabai District Specialised
Administrative Court; 2 days.

3. Maksim Kandyba; CC Baptist; 20 January Semei Specialised Administrative
Court; 10 days.

4. Pavel Leonov; CC Baptist; 20 January Ayagoz District Court; 3 days.

5. Vitaly Krasilnikov; CC Baptist; 21 January Oskemen Specialised
Administrative Court; 1 day.

6. Aleksandr Pukhov; CC Baptist; 3 March Petropavl Specialised
Administrative Court; 5 days.

7. Vyacheslav Flocha; CC Baptist; 6 March Zhaksy District Court No. 2; 5
days.

8. Sergei Golovanenko; CC Baptist; 18 March Burabai District Court; 2 days.

9. Denis Yenenko; CC Baptist; 17 April Shal-akyn District Court; 6 days.

10. Viktor Kandyba; CC Baptist; 27 May Semei Specialised Administrative
Court; 10 days.

11. Name withheld; Muslim; early July Court name withheld; 5 days.

12. Ramil Nizamov; CC Baptist; 8 July Petropavlovsk Specialised
Administrative Court; 5 days.

13. Anatoly Stakhnev; CC Baptist; 11 July Semei Specialised Administrative
Court; 10 days.

14. Nikolai Novikov; CC Baptist; 18 August Oral Specialised Administrative
Court; 5 days.

In addition, on 12 February Nury District Court found Baptist Sergei Lantsov guilty of violating Administrative Code Article 524. He fined him 2
MFIs.

Reports on freedom of thought, conscience and belief in Kazakhstan can be
found at
<http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?query=&religion=all&country=29>.

For more background, see Forum 18’s Kazakhstan religious freedom survey at
<http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1939>.

For a personal commentary from 2005 on how attacking religious freedom
damages national security in Kazakhstan, see F18News
<http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=564>.

A compilation of Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe
(OSCE) freedom of religion or belief commitments can be found at
<http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1351>.

A printer-friendly map of Kazakhstan is available at
<http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/mapping/outline-map/?map=Kazakhstan>.

Kazakhstan: Pastor Kashkumbayev In Desperate Situation- How You Can Help

Pastor Kashkumbayev, 67, was released to house arrest after having been imprisoned since May for his Christian activities, only to be immediately re-arrested for religious extremism. Read VOP Oct. 10, 2013 article

CNB interviews ICC President Jeff King on Pastor Kashumbayev’s urgent and dangerous situation.


Pastor Kashkumbayev is in a very desperate situation. Please remember him in your prayers and help apply political pressure for his release.

HOW TO HELP 

  • PRAY for Divine healing and intervention
  • Contact the Kazak Embassy in Washington D.C. by phone at 202-232-5488 (they only take calls in the afternoon)
  • Call your Representatives on Capital Hill and ask them to speak with the ambassador, Kairat Umarov now serving his third stint in Washington, D.C.,  to explain to them what is going on with this case. Ask for a return reply and follow up with them on this progress. Locate your Representative HERE Do not delay!

 

KAZAKHSTAN: Pastor Re-arrested Within Minutes As Suspected “Extremist”

PastorKashkumbayevrelease

Pastor Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev was freed from prison on 8 October, to be transferred to house arrest, but was arrested within minutes on new charges of “extremism”.

The retired Presbyterian pastor of Grace Church in the capital, Astana, is being held at Astana Police’s Temporary Isolation Prison. He was originally arrested on 17 May 2013 on criminal charges of “harming the health” of a member of his congregation (see Background, below) but is facing a new criminal investigation of being an “extremist” or “terrorist”. The case is being overseen by the Police Anti-Extremism Department. Under Kazakh law, those arrested can be held for up to three days, after which either a court must extend their detention or they must be freed.

Family members have not been given any information about the new accusation. The pastor’s younger son Askar Kashkumbayev said, “These new accusations are complete rubbish. They’re trying to turn my father into a terrorist.” He added that his mother, Alfiya, “is suffering a lot”. Pastor Kashkumbayev will be 67 on 19 October.

At a hearing on 7 October, after nearly five months’ imprisonment – one month of it in psychiatric hospital – a court in Astana ordered that the pre-trial detention of Presbyterian Pastor Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev be extended until 17 November, but that he would be transferred from prison to house arrest, under tight restrictions, while the criminal investigation against him continues. The transfer was expected to take place on 8 October, and the rearrest took everyone by surprise.

Until the rearrest, the pastor had not seen Alfiya or any other family member, except his younger son, since his original arrest in May. since mid-September, Askar Kashkumbayev has been able to visit his father a couple of times, and he was able to meet him on 7 October in the Investigation Prison. The pastor’s sons have been allowed to give him parcels of food and clothes, but each time they have to pay about €45-50 to do so.

Release and rearrest

Pastor Kashkumbayev’s lawyer Nurlan Beisekeyev, Alfiya and other family members arrived at the prison on the morning of 8 October, expecting him to be released to house arrest. Formalities were completed at about 1pm, and Pastor Kaskhkumbayev was reunited with his wife. Video footage taken by a family member shows Pastor Kashkumbayev displaying varicose veins on his legs, and his wife weeping.

Three plain-clothes officials sent by Police investigator Captain Vyacheslav Glazkov were waiting at the prison gate, and ordered Pastor Kashkumbayev to accompany them to the police station for questioning by Captain Glazkov. Pastor Kashkumbayev’s lawyer, accompanied by the officials, drove him and his wife to the police station, where Captain Glazkov said that a new criminal accusation had been lodged in parallel with the existing criminal investigation. The pastor is being investigated for alleged violation of Article 233-1, Part 1 of the Criminal Code, which punishes “Propaganda of terrorism or extremism, or public calls to commit an act of terrorism or extremism, as well as the distribution of material of the content indicated” with imprisonment of between three and seven years.

Captain Glazkov claimed that an “expert analysis” had found “elements of an extremist nature” in the activities of the church. The lawyer and Alfiya Kashkumbayeva were then threatened with violence if they did not leave the police station. Alfiya left, and Captain Glazkov told the lawyer that he represented Pastor Kashkumbayev only in the original case, not in the “extremism” case. After further physical threats, the lawyer left.

Askar Kashkumbayev said he and his family are very concerned over the pastor’s state of health: “We had hoped that he would be able to have treatment for varicose veins while he was under house arrest. He’s in pain over this, and they made him stand in a corridor for two hours at the prison yesterday.” The prison head, when told of the family’s concern about his state of health and the fact that the order to transfer him to house arrest had been partly based on his state of health, said: “His health is normal. He is being checked by a paramedic. People don’t die here in my prison.”

“Expert analyses” and “Extremist” books

Even before the first criminal case against Pastor Kashkumbayev was launched in October 2012, a series of “expert analyses” appears to have been conducted on various aspects of Grace Church’s activity and materials, according to court documents seen by Forum 18 and information published by Guldana Almenova (the estranged sister of Grace Church member Lyazzat Almenova, who is central to the case – see Background, below) and an organisation she leads, the Support Centre for Victims of Destructive Religious Movements.

The “expert analyses” relate to the three main state accusations against Grace Church and Pastor Kashkumbayev: distributing “extremist” books, harming psychological health and using hallucinogenic juice for communion.

A Russian translation of the book Healing the Broken Family of Abraham by American Christian Don McCurry, confiscated during the police raid on Grace Church in April 2012, was found, by the Almaty Institute for Judicial Expert Analysis of the Justice Ministry, to contain “elements of incitement to religious hatred and discord”. In November 2012, a judge ruled the book “extremist” and banned its publication, import and distribution in Kazakhstan. Another book confiscated from Grace Church, Worthy Answers, written by two local Christians, Galymzhan Tanatgan and Zhomart Temir, was found to contain “elements of incitement of religious hatred and discord”. The police and secret police have seized both books repeatedly as “extremist”.

7 October Hearing

The decision to transfer Pastor Kashkumbayev to house arrest, now superceded, had been made by Judge Nurlan Bayakhmetov of Astana’s Almaty District Court No. 2 at a hearing on 7 October. At the hearing, Prosecutor’s Office official K. Artykbayev asked for Pastor Kashkumbayev’s detention in prison to be extended until 17 November. Judge Bayakhmetov agreed to the extension but rejected the call for him to spend this time in prison. Noting Pastor Kashkumbayev’s age and the fact that his health requires “suitable treatment”, the Judge said his “complete isolation” was “not necessary”. The pastor suffered a serious heart attack in 2011 and has varicose veins and several chronic health issues (gastritis, bronchitis and inflammation of both ears).

According to the terms of the court decision, Pastor Kashkumbayev would have been “banned from associating with anyone apart from close relatives living with him, receiving and sending letters, holding conversations with the use of any communications devices”, he might only leave his home to receive medical attention, and the police were to supervise his behaviour.

Surveillance

Pastor Kashkumbayev’s family told Forum 18 that on 4 October they had arranged a meeting at Grace Church to discuss the case with visitors from the United States, together with US Embassy officials. Two cars with video cameras were waiting outside the church building and filmed those arriving for the meeting.

“The authorities could only have known of the meeting from listening in to our phone calls,” a church member said. When a member later went out to film the two cars and their activity, the cars disappeared quickly.

Kazakhstan introduced a controversial religion law in 2011, which has wreaked havoc among religious minorities, particularly evangelical Christians and Muslim sects. Churches’ legal rights to gather were revoked and Christians can be arrested and fined for meeting together to pray without government permission.

Pastor%20KashkumbaevBackground

The case against Pastor Kashkumbayev relates to a complaint made in July 2011 by a church member’s mother, who claimed that her daughter had suffered psychological harm after attending Grace Church. In September 2012, expert assessment of Lyazzat Almenova (34) claimed that regular attendance at the church had led her to develop paranoid schizophrenia. Church members strongly reject the allegation, and Liazzat Almenova rejects any suggestion of harm to her health. She wrote to the Astana Prosecutor’s Office to say that she is psychiatrically healthy and that the 2012 assessment was conducted illegally, and calling for the case to be abandoned. She said in July that Pastor Kashkumbayev “is totally innocent and has not harmed my health at all”.

In October 2012, after raiding Grace church, detaining and questioning members and taking literature and money, police told the local media that the church members were being harmed by being “given hallucinogens to drink”. The alleged hallucinogen was a local red tea used as a non-alcoholic communion wine, bought by church members in nearby shops. At Pastor Kashkumbayev’s court hearing on 19 May, however, the main accusation did not relate to the tea, but rather to praying in tongues and singing, which were said to have caused the mental injury to Ms Almenova.

The criminal case, opened in October 2012, was for “causing considerable harm to the psychological health” of a church member. The prosecutor alleged “the crime was carried out by Kashkumbayev under the guise of carrying out charitable and religious activity by means of exerting psychological influence on church members, including with the use of stupefying substances [the red tea] with the aim of collecting gifts for the use of the association”.

In August 2013, Pastor Kashkumbayev was transferred from prison to Almaty’s Centre of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Narcology. In early September, when he was discharged back to prison, the centre’s chief doctor Natalya Logacheva refused to say whether Pastor Kashkumbayev had been found to be psychologically healthy and responsible for his actions, citing confidentiality. She also refused to say whether any psychotropic or other drugs had been administered to him. Human rights defenders in Kazakhstan are growing increasingly concerned at the way the state is involving psychiatrists in cases of religious freedom and political opposition.

The case against Grace Church

Pastor Kashkumbayev’s lawyer, Nurlan Beysekeyev, is also the lawyer for Grace Church, which is subject to a separate criminal investigation. The investigators have given the lawyer no information about the case against its members. On 19 March Captain Vyacheslav Glazkov launched a criminal case in connection with allegations that members of Grace Church were inciting “religious hatred”. Officials have alleged that the church is involved in espionage, fraud, money laundering, distributing extremist texts and using hallucinogenic communion drink.

Embassy of Kazakhstan

David Turner, Director of Church in Chains, spoke by telephone on 10 October 2013 to an official at the Embassy of Kazakhstan to the UK and Ireland, in London. Told of the concerns of Irish Christians about Pastor Kashkumbayev, the official said, “Thank you for your opinion”, but would not discuss the case and seemed unaware of the latest developments. She acknowledged that a letter sent by Church in Chains on 31 July 2013 had not been answered.

(Forum 18, World Watch Monitor)

Church In Chains

Detained Kazakh pastor launches hunger strike, appeals to UN for help

Pastor Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev

Pastor Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev

Kazakhstan, Central Asia

A Kazakh pastor who is being detained for “inflicting serious harm to health” has launched a hunger strike and appealed to the UN to protect him from psychiatric abuse by the authorities.

Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev (67) has been held in custody since May following a complaint by a church member’s mother. She claimed that her daughter, Lyazzat Almenova, had suffered psychological harm after attending Pastor Kashkumbayev’s church in Astana.

Despite repeated appeals from Lyazzat herself that he is innocent and she is psychiatrically healthy, the authorities have continued to detain the church leader, extending his custody until 17 August.

Following preliminary tests, a police investigator ordered that Pastor Kashkumbayev be transferred to a psychiatric assessment centre in Almaty for further examination, prompting the latter to launch a hunger strike.

On 18 July, he wrote to national and international bodies, including the United Nations Human Rights Committee, to complain about his unlawful detention and treatment by the authorities.

Announcing his hunger strike, the church leader expressed his fears that he will be injected with “special substances” to make him insane, adding, “It will not take much for the authorities to make me a ‘vegetable’ … I am begging you to protect me.”

Pastor Kashkumbayev said that the authorities must have realised that the criminal case against him was “going nowhere” and thus came up with the idea of sending him for psychiatric evaluation. It is not known whether has yet been transferred to the assessment centre.

His son Askar said:

He (the investigator) is trying to win time to find evidence which does not exist, because my father did not plan on making people sick and did not harm anyone. He may also hope that my father will be diagnosed as mentally ill so he can close the case now that there is so much international attention to it.

Our only hope is the support we can get from wider public and international community.

Their fears are not unfounded. The supposed victim, Lyazzat, said that she was put in a psychiatric clinic in 2011, when the allegations against the pastor were first made by her mother, and given injections that made her apathetic and passive; she was not told what substance the needles contained.

She said that the authorities forcibly put her in a psychiatric ward again between 23 February and 13 March in order to declare her mentally ill so as to be able to disregard her appeals and petitions in favour of Pastor Kashkumbayev.

He is accused of exerting “psychological influence” over her through the use of mind-altering drinks, sermons and prayers in order to compel her to give money to the church. The “mind-altering drinks” turned out to be a local red tea used as a non-alcoholic alternative to wine for Communion.

BarnabasAid

Secret Believers Share Faith under Fire

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BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — One-hundred-thousand Christians are murdered because of their faith each year. In many cases, governments are to blame because they pass laws that restrict religious freedom.

Recently, CBN News gained exclusive access to a gathering of secret believers inside a former Soviet Republic to get a close-up look at what life is like for Christians who face daily persecution.

Secret Strategy

The setting in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan could not have been more ideal.

“This is a beautiful location,” Vitaly, a secret believer, said. “Seventy percent of the country is mountainous. Locals call it the second Switzerland of Asia. Our goal was to find a safe place away from the city to not draw attention of the authorities.”

For a few days Vitaly and a handful of Christians gathered in a secluded villa tucked away in the mountains about a two-hour drive outside the capital city Bishkek.

We worship, pray, and strategize how to effectively share the love of Christ in our countries,” Vitaly said.

CBN News cannot show you their faces or reveal their real names for security reasons, but in a room inside a secret getaway are underground believers from Kyrgyzstan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. All are former Soviet Republics in Central Asia experiencing a rising tide of hostilities against believers.

They are members of a Christian ministry that’s reaching young people in the former Soviet Union.

“It’s practically impossible to openly share about Jesus Christ. Doing so will get you beaten, arrested, or killed,” Vitaly warned.

Youth Not Allowed

But that has not stopped Marat, a youth leader from Uzbekistan, who said last year was a difficult year for him.

“Fortunately I wasn’t arrested,” Marat said. “But I was repeatedly interrogated by secret police accused of gathering people in my house. They said what I am doing is illegal.”

Marat runs an informal Christian school training Uzbek leaders. He told CBN News that “the pressure is unrelenting.”

“You can’t relax. You are constantly under stress,” he said. “You cannot trust anyone because you don’t know if they’ll turn you in or accuse you of proselytizing.”

Doud is from Kazakhstan, the largest of the five Central Asian countries. There were no Kazakh Christians in 1990. Today there are about 15,000. But strict religious laws make it difficult for churches to register.

“According to our law you cannot attend church until you are 18 years old. That means we cannot hold youth meetings, discipleship classes or Bible study,” Doud said.

One Life at a Time

Firuz is from Tajikistan. He gave CBN News exclusive access to home video of his secret house church that was smuggled out of the country. The meetings are small and typically held in a believer’s home.

“The people in this video know exactly what’s at stake,” Firuz told CBN News in an undisclosed location.

“Our parents taught us from childhood that one day we may have to sacrifice our lives.”

Seven million people live in Tajikistan and only 1,000 are Christian.

“Each life counts,” Firuz said. “God says, ‘Be thankful every day, rejoice in every soul that comes into heaven.’ That’s what keeps us going: one life at a time.”

Radical Islam On the Rise

Religious freedom exists in all five countries under the constitution, but barely. While Islam is the dominant religion, a more radical expression is taking root in Central Asia.

Dmitry Kabak is a human rights lawyer in Bishkek. He said fear of radicalism has led governments to adopt laws controlling all religions, including Islam and Christianity.

“Groups from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and elsewhere come in with a different interpretation and practice of Islam. That worries the authorities. Some of the radical groups have engaged in terrorist activities,” Kabak told CBN News.

Oleg works in remote villages of Kyrgyzstan. He remembers what it was like spiritually after the fall of the Soviet Union.

“There was a lot of freedom in the 90s. People could openly share the gospel. But eventually, Islam started to make a move and gain influence,” he said.

An Oasis from Persecution

All throughout the mountain areas of Kyrgyzstan the horse is another popular mode of transportation, especially to get around some of the tough terrain and step hills.

For the believers, the mountains are a spiritual oasis because it is an opportunity to get away from the almost daily routine, harassment, and persecution from the authorities and to come together in a safe place, a beautiful place, and to get spiritually energized.

“The beauty, the backdrop, (and) the scenery (are) wonderful distractions from (their) daily challenges,” Marat said.

“To see Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Kazakh, and Tajik believers in the same place at one time is so encouraging,” Firuz said.

“We draw strength from each other. We know we are not in this spiritual battle alone.”

After being encouraged, refreshed, and re-energized, the believers must travel back home to the uncertainty of the days ahead.

Yet they stand boldly, convinced of a calling to make the name of Jesus Christ known — no matter the cost.

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