Baptist in Kazakhstan Framed by Police: Arrested and Convicted Based on Forced, False Testimonies

KAZAKHSTAN: Baptist convicted on evidence “fabricated” by police

ICC Note:

A Baptist man in Kazakhstan says he kept his religious literature in his house and didn’t leave it at his neighbors doors.  The police, apparently, forced his neighbors to write false testimonies claiming that he did this, which is an illegal missionary activity. One neighbor told Forum 18 that they were “not even sure what I signed for the police.” This seems like another case of police making excuses to raid the homes of Christians and arrest them based on the Christian literature they have in their homes. Kazakhstan needs to change the laws that discriminate against religious minorities and begin enforcing laws that protect “their internationally recognized right to freedom of religion or belief…”

By Mushfig Bayram

5/22/2012 Kazakhstan (Forum18)-Kazakhstan continues to punish people exercising their internationally recognised right to freedom of religion or belief without state permission, Forum 18 News Service notes. Raids, often without search warrants, have continued on members of the Baptist Council of Churches, who on principle do not seek state registration. In a particularly serious development, Baptist Vasiliy Stakhnev appears to have been framed by police and then given a large fine for the “offence” of distributing religious literature – which he vehemently insists that he did not do. Police apparently pressured his neighbours to write false testimonies against him, one neighbour telling Forum 18 that they are “not even sure what I signed for the police”. Stakhnev insisted to Forum 18 that he had not distributed any literature, and that he was only “guilty” of possessing Christian literature in his private home. Local police chief Serikhan Tozhigitov of Serebryansk Police claimed to Forum 18 that: “We did not force anyone to sign anything”.
Kazakhstan has continued to punish people exercising their internationally recognised right to freedom of religion or belief without state permission, Forum 18 News Service notes. Raids have continued on members of the Baptist Council of Churches, who on principle do not seek state registration and hence in Kazakhstan permission to exist for their churches. In a particularly serious development, Baptist Vasily Stakhnev appears to have been framed by police and then fined for the “offence” of distributing religious literature, which he vehemently insists that he did not do. Stakhnev was fined 161,800 Tenge (6,485 Norwegian Kroner, 860 Euros, or 1,095 US Dollars) – a very large amount given his income – after police apparently pressured his neighbours to write false testimonies against him.

Also, in early May the legally-registered Jesus Methodist Church in Taldykorgan, in Almaty Region, has been forced under pressure by the authorities to cancel its registration and close (see forthcoming F18News article). Pressure on the Methodists, using the Land Code as a pretext, follows the forced closure of all Ahmadi Muslim mosques in Kazakhstan and pressure on other religious communities (see F18News 24 April 2012http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1692).

“Fabricated” case

Baptist Vasily Stakhnev told Forum 18 on 15 May that on the night of 27 / 28 February police in Serebryansk, in East Kazakhstan Region, raided the three private flats of himself and two other Baptists. Police confiscated Christian booklets from all three homes.

Following the raids during a court hearing on 27 May, Stakhnev found that the police had “fabricated”, as he described it, a case against him by forcing neighbours to sign false statements. Two neighbours from the same building had signed statement for the police claiming that Stakhnev had “stuck religious literature in the door handles or under the doors of their flats”. This was interpreted by Zyryanovsk District Specialized Administrative Court in East Kazakhstan Region as unregistered missionary activity and unauthorized spreading of religious materials.

The hearing took place 600 kilometres (375 miles) away from Stakhnev’s home.

An Inspector calls..

Stakhnev told Forum 18 that neighbours had told him that local police Inspector Yernar Kaliyev had come to their homes, and pressured to write statements against him.

One neighbour told Forum 18 on 16 May that “it is true that I told the police that sometimes I found religious literature at my door”. “But”, they continued, “I never said that Stakhnev had done it”. They added that the police presence in their home was “uncomfortable”, and that they are “not even sure what I signed for the police”.

Stakhnev insisted to Forum 18 that he had not distributed any literature, and that he was only “guilty” of possessing Christian literature in his private home.

Inspector Kaliyev refused to talk to Forum 18 on 16 May and referred Forum 18 to local police chief Serikhan Tozhigitov of Serebryansk Police.

“We did not force anyone to sign anything”

Asked on what basis police raided the homes of the three Baptists, Tozhigitov on 16 May claimed to Forum 18 that the Police had evidence from witnesses that “Stakhnev distributed religious literature among people”. He also claimed that the police knew that the Baptist Church is not registered.

Tozhigitov also claimed that: “We did not force anyone to sign anything”. He also stated that “the law demands that they [the Baptists] be registered. They cannot distribute religious literature unless they register”. He also stated that police will in future raid private homes of Baptists “if we find that they continue distributing literature”.

“Guilty”

Judge Anuarkhan Kalenov of on 27 April fined Stakhnev the maximum fine of 161,800 Tenge (6,485 Norwegian Kroner, 860 Euros, or 1,095 US Dollars) or 100 minimum Monthly Financial Indicators (MFIs). He was found “guilty” under the Code of Administrative Offences’ Article 375 Part 3, which was changed at the same time that the harsh 2011 Religion Law was brought in.

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