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KAZAKHSTAN: Pentecostal jailed for 2 months pre-trial, Baptist gets 3-days jail, atheist still in psychiatric hospital

ICC Note:
The accusations keep changing! First Pastor Kashkumbayev was told he was arrested for putting “hallucinogens” in the communion “wine” (it’s actually tea). Now the accusation is that he was “praying in tongues and singing” which caused a lady to “lose her mind.” The courts recently upheld an order that this pastor must remain in prison for two months pre-trial. “Prosecutors have long been seeking to punish the leaders of Grace Church, but the reason or reasons for this remain unclear.” Now, it seems, a pastor must languish in prison with unclear charges.

By Felix Corley
5/20/2013 Kazakhstan (Forum18)- A Protestant pastor in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana, 66-year-old Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev, was arrested on criminal charges of harming health on 17 May, Forum 18 News Service has learned. On 19 May he was ordered to be held for two months’ pre-trial detention. Imprisoned atheist writer 62-year-old Aleksandr Kharlamov remains under investigation in a psychiatric hospital in the commercial capital Almaty. And Baptist leader Aleksei Asetov served a three-day prison term in Ekibastuz in Pavlodar Region in early May, for refusing to pay a fine equivalent to a year and a half’s average local wages, for meeting for worship without state permission.
The arrest of Pastor Kashkumbayev on criminal charges provoked a quick response from fellow Protestants. “Pray for the Grace Church pastor. Re-post this everywhere,” Pastor Maxim Maximov, leader of New Life Church in Kazakhstan, noted on his Facebook page on 18 May.
Arrest
Pastor Kashkumbayev, who leads Grace Church in Astana, was arrested in the early evening of 17 May, church members told Forum 18. Astana Police told the local media on 18 May that Pastor Kashkumbayev was taken to the city’s Temporary Isolation Prison.
Police added that Pastor Kashkumbayev was arrested on suspicion of an offence under Criminal Code Article 103, Part 1 (“Intentional inflicting of serious harm to health”). This carries a punishment of restrictions on freedom or imprisonment of between three and seven years. It said the criminal case had been opened in October 2012 “for causing considerable harm to the psychological health” of a church member.
In October 2012, after raiding the church, detaining and questioning members, and taking literature and money, police told the local media that the alleged “harm” was caused by church members being “given hallucinogens to drink”. The alleged “hallucinogens” were local red tea used as a non-alcoholic communion wine. Police questioning at that time ranged far beyond the alleged “harm” they were supposedly investigating (see F18News 19 October 2012http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1756).
Imprisoned – but on what charges?
Prosecutor’s assistant Zh. Bukin brought a suit to Astana’s Almaty District Court No. 2 for Pastor Kashkumbayev to be held in detention for up to two months while the investigation proceeds. At a hearing on the morning of Sunday 19 May, Judge Nurlan Bayakhmetov upheld the pre-trial detention, the Court chancellery told Forum 18 on 20 May.
Neither church members nor Forum 18 have been able to see the court ruling explaining the exact nature of the current charges against Pastor Kashkumbayev. “Those present at the [19 May detention] hearing said that the accusation presented in court was not because of the tea, but for praying in tongues and singing. This allegedly led the woman to lose her mind,” church members told Forum 18.
Like many Christians worldwide, Grace Church members “pray in tongues” under what they state is the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Pastor Kashkumbayev was transferred to the Interior Ministry’s Investigation Isolation Prison in Astana on 19 May, staff there told Forum 18 on 20 May. Its address is:
SI-12 (ETs 166/1)
Alash Tas Zhol street 30/1
010000 Astana
Kazakhstan
Unusual timing
Church members complained that Pastor Kashkumbayev’s arrest had been deliberately timed to take place after the end of the working day on Friday 17 May. They also pointed to the unusual timing of the Sunday morning court hearing that ordered his pre-trial detention. They said that Pastor Kashkumbayev’s lawyer, Riza Nurbayeva, had been unable to attend the hearing, so only a state lawyer was present.
However, the Court Chancellery maintained that the timing of the court hearing was solely related to the timing of the arrest. “The hearing has to take place within 60 hours of arrest, so if an arrest is on a Friday, for example, hearings can and do take place during the weekend,” the official told Forum 18.
Why?
Prosecutors have long been seeking to punish the leaders of Grace Church, but the reason or reasons for this remain unclear. After the 3 October 2012 raid, detentions and confiscations, church members were told by police then that a case had been opened on the complaint of a church member’s mother on 21 July 2011 – almost 15 months earlier. The mother alleged that her daughter had suffered psychological harm after attending the church. Church members strongly denied these claims (see F18News 19 October 2012http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1756).
The current criminal investigation is being led by Investigator Vyacheslav Glazkov. He confirmed to Forum 18 on 20 May that he had attended the 19 May detention hearing. However, he declined absolutely to discuss any aspect of the case against Pastor Kashkumbayev.
Similarly, Imanguli Makishev, a Deputy Head of Astana Police Investigation Department also refused to discuss the criminal investigation. “Maybe you’re not a journalist,” he told Forum 18. “In any case, we don’t give information by phone.”

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