(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”.
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”).
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
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
Reports on freedom of thought, conscience and belief in Kazakhstan can be
For more background, see Forum 18’s Kazakhstan religious freedom survey at
For a personal commentary from 2005 on how attacking religious freedom
damages national security in Kazakhstan, see F18News
A compilation of Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe
(OSCE) freedom of religion or belief commitments can be found at
A printer-friendly map of Kazakhstan is available at
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!
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.
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.
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)
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.