Kazakh pastor held on charge of harming health

May 26, 2013 by  
Filed under newsletter-world

A pastor in Kazakhstan has been detained on a charge of “inflicting serious harm to health” after a woman who attended his church was said to “lose her mind”.

Astana, the capital of KazakhstanKazakhstan, May 24, 2013: Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev (66), who leads Grace Church in the capital, Astana, was arrested on 17 May and subsequently ordered to be held for up to two months’ pre-trial detention while the case against him is investigated.

It dates back to a complaint that was made by a church member’s mother in July 2011. She claimed that her daughter had suffered psychological harm after attending the church, though other members strongly refuted this allegation.

Police raided the church in October 2012; they detained and questioned members and confiscated literature and money. Officers said that “harm” was being caused to church members who were “given hallucinogens to drink”; the so-called “hallucinogen” was a local red tea being used as a non-alcoholic communion wine.

But at Pastor Kashkumbayev’s court hearing on 19 May, the accusation presented did not relate to the tea but rather to praying in tongues and singing, which was said to lead the woman to “lose her mind”.

The charge of “Intentional inflicting of serious harm to health” carries a penalty of between three and seven years’ imprisonment or restrictions on freedom.

Similar charges have previously been brought against other Christian ministers in Kazakhstan. Yerzhan Ushanov, leader of New Life Protestant Church in Taraz, was found guilty on 5 September 2011 of “causing severe damage to health due to negligence” after he prayed for the healing of a sick man. He was ordered to pay a heavy fine but was acquitted on appeal in April 2012.

Vissa Kim, pastor of Grace Light of Love Protestant Church, was likewise fined in April 2010 for harming a woman’s health by praying for her. The Supreme Court subsequently overturned his conviction and cancelled the fine.

The Kazakh authorities are increasingly hostile to Christian activities, and churches regularly face harassment and judicial penalties.

On 4 May, church leader Aleksei Asetov was given a three-day prison term for refusing to pay a fine issued in February 2012 for leading a small unregistered church that meets in his home in Ekibastuz in Pavlodar Region.

Aleksei refused to pay the fine, which was the equivalent of 18 months’ average local wages, because he said that he should not be penalised for meeting for worship with his friends.

– barnabas team

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