Kazakh Pastor Released from Prison

Kashkumbayev No Longer Suffers Threat of Torture

2/18/2014 Kazakhstan (International Christian Concern)- International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that retired Pastor Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev has been released on three years’ probation following a grueling imprisonment and trial. Released on February 17th after being found guilty of intentionally “harming the health” of a parishioner, Kashkumbayev is not allowed to leave Kazakhstan. His lawyer said, “In my experience as a lawyer, this is one of the strangest cases I have seen.…”

Despite the fact that Judge Gulzhakhan Ubasheva of Astana’s Almaty District Court No. 2 found Kashkumbayev guilty, those close to the pastor are rejoicing that he is now out of prison and able to seek medical care. “I have a wonderful news!” a source told ICC. “Today [Pastor  Kashkumbayev] came home!”

According to Felix Corley of Forum 18, Kashkumbayev must pay a fine of 2 million tenge ($10,800 USD) for “moral damages” to his alleged “victim,” who denied any harm to her health. Pastor Kashkumbayev’s lawyer, Nurlan Beysekeyev, spoke with Forum 18 after the verdict saying, “In my experience as a lawyer, this is one of the strangest cases I have seen in terms of legality.  It was not just strange, but from the standpoint of the law, all types of violations occurred, when the case was opened, when it was being investigated and during the trial.”

Originally, five charges, including extremism, were brought against Kashkumbayev. Without disclosing their reasoning, prosecutors dropped four of those charges, leaving only Criminal Code Article 103, Part 1, which accused the pastor of “intentional infliction of grievous bodily harm” by putting hallucinogens in the communion juice.

Thousands of concerned individuals across the world signed petitions and called the embassy demanding Kashkumbayev’s release. ICC thanks  other key organizations, such as Russian Ministries and Forum 18, who worked tirelessly to report on this case and advocate on behalf of the pastor. Jeff King, President of ICC, referred to ICC’s many interactions with the Kazakh embassy, including a meeting with Ambassador Kairat Umarov scheduled for February 19th, saying, “We appreciate the embassy’s help in getting this issue resolved.”

Corey Bailey, Regional Manager for Central Asia, said, “We are rejoicing at the release on probation of Pastor Kashkumbayev, who is no longer being tortured in prison. Though not allowed to leave the country, he is now able to receive the medical help he has been denied since his arrest in May 2013. We support his lawyers’ decision to appeal the wrongful ‘guilty’ charge and exorbitant fine. We are grateful for all those who remembered Kashkumbayev in prayer and relentlessly advocated for his release.”

For interviews, contact Corey Bailey: RM-Asia@persecution.org

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