Kazakh pastor re-arrested on being freed

October 17, 2013 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia, Persecution

 

Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev was arrested in May

Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev was arrested in May

Kazakhstan, October 14, 2013: Kazakh pastor Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev was freed from custody and reunited with his family last week – only to be re-arrested within minutes.

The following day, Pastor Kashkumbayev was freed and reunited with his wife, Alfiya Kashkumbayeva, and other relatives; he had not seen them since the day of his arrest in May.

Three plain-clothes officials were waiting at the prison gate and ordered the church leader to accompany them to the police station for questioning. There he was informed that he was now being investigated on extremism charges, which carry a penalty of between three and seven years imprisonment, in parallel with the “harming health” allegation.

Pastor Kashkumbayev, who led Grace Church in Astana until his retirement last year, is accused of “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”.

His son, Askar, told Forum 18 News Service, “These new accusations are complete rubbish. They’re trying to turn my father into a terrorist.”

At the police station, Pastor Kashkumbayev’s wife and lawyer were threatened with violence if they did not leave. He was refused the right to have his own choice of lawyer and was instead given one chosen by the police.

The church leader was held in Astana Police’s Temporary Isolation Prison. Having seen him briefly, Pastor Kashkumbayev’s family are extremely concerned about the state of his health. As well as physical ailments, he has been subjected to abusive psychological examinations while in custody.

Grace Church has been subjected to a long campaign of state harassment. It has been accused of being involved in espionage, fraud, money laundering, distributing extremist texts and using hallucinogenic communion drink.

In addition to the cases against Pastor Kashkumbayev, a new criminal investigation has been launched against as yet unnamed members of the church.

The “inflicting serious harm to health” charge against Pastor Kashkumbayev relates to an accusation made by a church member’s mother, who claimed that her daughter, Lyazzat Almenova, had suffered psychological harm after attending Grace Church. Lyazzat herself has repeatedly insisted that she is psychiatrically healthy.

– barnabas team

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