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Media Contact: Corey Bailey, Regional Manager for Central Asia RM-Asia@persecution.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Government Continues Mental Torture of Pastor as Court Frees and Immediately Re-Arrests Him
"It won't take long for the authorities to make me a vegetable. I am begging you to protect me."
International Christian Concern
International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that an elderly pastor in Kazakhstan was re-arrested and charged with religious extremism just hours after he had been released to house arrest for charges of harming public health.
After nearly five months of imprisonment, a court in Astana extended Pastor Bakhytzhat Kashkumbayev's pre-trial imprisonment until November 17th. The terms were changed from prison to house arrest, according to the court decision seen by Forum 18 News Service. However, as Kashkumbayev exited the jail, he was immediately re-arrested. According to an ICC source (name withheld), Kashkumbayev was accused of extremism under article 233 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The investigator of the extremism accusation is Vyacheslav Glazkov. Glazkov has stated that Kashkumbayev must remain in prison for three more days. After that they will decide if they will "keep him in prison for more time or let him go."
The Christian community in Kazakhstan was rocked by this re-arrest with another pastor telling ICC, "This is becoming more and more dangerous. They are targeting him because he is a Christian, and because he is also (ethnically) Kazakh, so to the government he is seen as a traitor. They are making an example of him to scare the Christians. First they are saying, 'he has harmed public health,' and now they are saying he has been operating with religious extremism. However, behind the scenes we know he was arrested, and Christians are harassed, because we are preaching the Gospel to the Kazakhs."
Kashkumbayev, who is 67 years old and in very poor health, has not received adequate medical care while wrongfully imprisoned. In August, he wrote a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Committee saying, "Though I am 67, and I cannot boast of ideal health since I had a serious heart attack in 2011, with chronic otitis of both ears, varicose veins in my legs, chronic bronchitis, chronic gastritis, I am psychologically healthy, [but] it will not take much for the authorities to make me a vegetable... I am begging you to protect me." When he saw his wife on October 8, for the first time since his arrest on May 17, she openly wept when he showed her the sores on his legs and other health issues that have not received medical attention.
Kashkumbayev's son,Askar, told World Watch Monitor, "Our only hope is the support we can get from the wider public and international community. The local news media [is publishing] materials against my father. It looks like the authorities are intent on punishing my father," he continued.
Pastor Kashkumbayev was arrested on May 17 on trumped-up charges of harming the health of his parishioners by "putting hallucinogens in the communion juice." He has been severely mistreated by the Kazakh government, including Soviet-style psychological examinations and lack of access to medical care.
Corey Bailey, ICC's Regional Manager for Central Asia, said, "The treatment of Pastor Kashkumbayev is appalling. His rights to religious freedom have been violated time and time again. It is clear that he is merely a scapegoat for the government, who has wrongfully imprisoned him and continues to harm his health. We ask the International community to let Kazakhstan know that we are watching them and that we are horrified at their treatment of Pastor Kashkumbayev. Time is running out. Please call the Kazakhstan embassy to raise a loud cry to save Pastor Kashkumbayev and demand his release from unlawful imprisonment."
The phone number for the Kazakhstan Embassy in Washington, D.C. is 202-232-5488. You can call from 9.00 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. (EST). If you are not an American, please contact the Kazakhstan embassy nearest to your country, or call long distance to Washington, D.C.
For interviews, contact Corey Bailey, Regional Manager for Central Asia: RM-Asia@persecution.org
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