KAZAKHSTAN: 15 years' jail for UNHCR-recognised refugee if deportation to Uzbekistan proceeds?
Charged in Uzbekistan with teaching the beliefs of the “banned religious organization Isa-Masih [Jesus Messiah]”, Protestant pastor Makset Djabbarbergenov has been in prison in Kazakhstan, where his refugee request has so far been denied. A few years ago he and his family escaped to Kazakhstan, fearing their lives were in danger in Uzbekistan. Though the UN Committee Against Torture states that he should gain refugee status due to the danger of sending him back to Uzbekistan, authorities in Kazakhstan are still threatening to extradite him. If he is in fact extradited, he could face up to fifteen years in prison. His wife, who hasn't seen him since his arrest in August says, “We want him freed.”
10/29/2012 Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan (Forum18)- Uzbekistan is now seeking to extradite detained UNHCR-recognised refugee Makset Djabbarbergenov from Kazakhstan on charges which carry a maximum 15 year jail term. The Protestant who fled to Kazakhstan is being sought by Uzbekistan for exercising freedom of religion or belief in his home town of Nukus. A Kazakh 15 October Almaty court decision, authorised further detention until 5 November. The Kazakh court also claimed that the Uzbek charges – which seek to prosecute exercising freedom of religion or belief – can be equated to terrorism-related charges in Kazakh law. Djabbarbergenov's wife has been stopped by Kazakh authorities from visiting him, she told Forum 18 News Service, as has a human rights defender who found he is being held in "quarantine". The Supreme Court claims it cannot find an appeal he lodged in August. Also, Kazakhstan has yet to reply to a finding of the UN Committee Against Torture that it violated human rights obligations by extraditing to Uzbekistan a group of Muslim refugees and asylum seekers. Kazakhstan's current bid to join the UN Human Rights Council claims it would, if elected, "enhance the credibility and effectiveness of the Human Rights Council".
Court documents seen by Forum 18 News Service reveal that Uzbekistan is now seeking to extradite Protestant pastor Makset Djabbarbergenov from Kazakhstan on charges which carry a maximum 15 year prison term. A 15 October Almaty court decision, authorising further detention until 5 November, reveals that the Uzbek authorities have changed one of the two accusations to a charge carrying a punishment of between five and 15 years' imprisonment. An official from Kazakhstan's Almaty Prosecutor's Office told Forum 18 that they are still awaiting materials in the case from Uzbekistan's General Prosecutor's Office.
An earlier 7 September Almaty court decision, authorising Djabbarbergenov's initial 40-day detention while Uzbekistan's extradition request was considered, spoke of two Uzbek Criminal Code charges, each carrying a maximum three-year term. The Kazakh Prosecutor's Office confirmed this to Forum 18.
Meanwhile, the Kazakh government has not yet responded to the United Nations Committee Against Torture. In June the Committee found that Kazakhstan had violated the rights of a group of Uzbek Muslims who were extradited to Uzbekistan in 2011, and asked for a response to this from Kazakhstan.
jabbarbergenov's wife, Aigul Tleumuratova, complained to Forum 18 that it was only after the 15 October hearing (which she did not attend) that she too learnt that the Uzbek authorities are seeking to imprison her husband for up to 15 years. "We want him freed," she told Forum 18 from Kazakhstan's commercial capital Almaty on 28 October. "I and our older children are praying for him. We all miss him." Tleumuratova is expecting their fifth child next year.
Djabbarbergenov is still being held in Almaty's Investigation Prison (LA 155/1). Tleumuratova has not seen her husband since his arrest on 5 September. "Last Tuesday [23 October] I wrote to the Prosecutor's Office asking to be allowed a meeting, but have heard nothing," she told Forum 18. "They say we are only allowed a meeting once a month, and you have to apply through the Prosecutor's Office."
The address of the prison Djabbarbergenov is being held in is:
Almaty Investigation Isolation Prison No. 1 LA 155/1
050004 Almaty Region
Prospekt Seifullina 473