Kazakh pastor in custody despite appeal from “victim”

June 25, 2013 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

The Kazakh authorities are continuing to hold a pastor accused of “inflicting serious harm to health” despite the supposed victim calling for the case against him to be dropped.

KazakhstanKazakhstan, June 17, 2013: Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev (66), who leads Grace Church in the capital, Astana, was arrested on 17 May following a complaint by a church member’s mother. She claimed that her daughter, Lyazzat Almenova, had suffered psychological harm after attending his church, an allegation strongly refuted by other members.

In September 2012 an expert assessment of Lyazzat stated that regular attendance at Grace Church had led her to develop paranoid schizophrenia.

But now, Lyazzat has written to the Astana Prosecutor’s Office to say that the assessment was conducted illegally and that she is psychiatrically healthy. She called for the case against Pastor Kashkumbayev to be dropped.

He is being held in pre-trial detention, and on 24 May a judge upheld an earlier decision to keep him in custody. The prosecutor argued that because the church leader is accused of a “serious crime”, it is right to hold him.

Pastor Kashkumbayev’s wife and other family members have not been permitted to see him in prison.

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

Meanwhile, Grace Church has been implicated in a separate case of inciting “religious hatred”. A criminal case was launched in March, but church members did not find out about it until 11 June.

It appears to relate, at least in part, to a book called Worthy Answers by two local Christians. Copies of the book were confiscated in raids on churches in October 2012 and, on 25 May, from an Almaty-based charity, United Mercy in Central Asia. Police allege that the book is banned and contains “extremist ideas”.

One member of Grace Church said, “They are moving against Evangelical Christians. It is no surprise that they have launched another criminal case.”

– barnabas team

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