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A Pastor in the Crosshairs,
Persecution Magazine, January 2014, Issue 3/3.
Court Maintains Spurious Charge of “Inflicting Damages on a Parishioner”
Innocent Pastor in Central Asia Remains in Detention Despite Charges Dropped
International Christian Concern
International Christian Concern (ICC) has just learned that charges of “propagating extremism” against 67-year-old Presbyterian Pastor Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev were dropped by a court in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, late Wednesday. The pastor’s eight month-long detention and harsh treatment has drawn heavy criticism of Kazakhstan’s government from international human rights organizations, including ICC.
ICC also learned that Pastor Kashkumbayev’s attorney, Mr. Nurlan Beiskeev, was not present for the ruling as the judge had adjourned the court until January 31, only to resume the hearing later in the day after Mr. Beiskeev had left. According to Radio Free Europe, Pastor Kashkumbayev reportedly refused to participate in the later hearing without the presence of his attorney, but was “dragged by force” back into the courtroom.
Pastor Kashkumbayev was initially arrested in May of last year on the charge of “harming a parishioner.” In August, he was transferred to a psychological hospital in Almaty where ICC sources report he was subjected to nineteen “Soviet-style psychological examinations” over the course of a single month. In July, before his transfer to the hospital, Pastor Kashkumbayev wrote to the United Nations pleading for assistance, saying,“It will not take much for the authorities to make me a vegetable…I am begging you to protect me.”
In October, as Pastor Kashkumbayev approached the maximum pre-trial detention limit allowed by Kazakhstan law, he was released to be placed under house arrest. However, only minutes after leaving the detention center, authorities re-arrested the ailing minister under new charges of “propogating extremism.”
Pastor Kashkumbayev is suffering from several serious medical conditions, including heart issues from a major heart attack in 2011, varicose veins, and chronic bronchitis. He has reportedly had no regular access to medical treatment since his imprisonment and has been forced by authorities to stand for long periods of time, an exercise that results in severe pain for the pastor due to the varicose veins in his legs.
The ruling on Wednesday follows several months of activism on behalf of the pastor by ICC and other organizations. In November, ICC launched the ACT Campaign, calling on concerned individuals to contact Kazakhstan embassies in their respective nations and to follow the “Free Pastor BK” Facebook page.
Ryan Morgan, a regional manager for International Christian Concern, said “While we are certainly pleased to hear that the completely untenable charges of propagating extremism have been dropped in Pastor Kashkumbayev’s case, we are still alarmed that the court has chosen to maintain the charge of harming a parishioner. How the judge could make this decision is difficult to understand, given that the very parishioner the pastor has been accused of harming has publicly claimed she was never harmed by him. The court should drop all charges and release Pastor Kashkumbayev immediately. No one should be separated from their loved ones, physically tortured, and deprived of their rights simply because they wish to freely share their religious beliefs.”
For interviews, please contact Ryan Morgan at firstname.lastname@example.org
You are free to disseminate this news story. We request that you reference ICC (International Christian Concern) and include our web address, www.persecution.org. ICC is a Washington D.C. based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.