KAZAKHSTAN: Two years' imprisonment for Astana Christian

Seventh-day Adventist prisoner of conscience Yklas Kabduakasov was arrested by officers of Kazakhstan's National Security Committee (KNB) secret police in the courtroom on 28 December as the Prosecutor succeeded in having his punishment of seven years' restricted freedom changed into a prison term. The City Court in the capital Astana increased the sentence to two years' imprisonment in a general regime labour camp, those attending the appeal hearing told Forum 18 News Service. The 12 weeks Kabduakasov spent in pre-trial detention will count towards his two year prison term.

Prisoner of conscience Kabduakasov, who is 54, denies the allegations of inciting religious hatred on which he was convicted on 9 November. The charges were initiated by the KNB secret police, who spent more than a year seeking to punish him.

The KNB secret police had been tracking Adventist Kabduakasov for a year as he spoke to others about his faith. The KNB appear to have rented the flat to which four university students invited him for religious discussions, appear to have organised the secret filming of the meetings with at least two hidden cameras, and prepared the prosecution case.

The KNB secret police finally arrested Kabduakasov in Astana on 14 August, accused of violating Criminal Code Article 174, Part 2. This punishes "incitement of social, national, clan, racial, or religious discord" by repeat "offenders" with prison terms of between five and ten years. On 9 November at the end of his first trial, Astana's Saryarka District Court No. 2 sentenced Kabduakasov to seven years' restricted freedom under Article 174, Part 1. He was allowed home that day to begin serving his sentence (see F18News 9 November 2015 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2119).

The 9 November verdict also ordered nine Christian books confiscated in searches at the time of Kabduakasov's arrest to be destroyed (see F18News 8 December 2015 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2130).

Appeal hands down two-year prison term

Kabduakasov appealed against the decision to Astana City Court, as did the Prosecutor, Asylzhan Gabdykaparov. Kabduakasov sought the overturning of the sentence and his full acquittal. The Prosecutor sought seven years' imprisonment in place of the restricted freedom sentence.

The appeal hearing began under Judge Gulnara Mergenova on 22 December, with a further hearing on 25 December. At the final appeal hearing on 28 December, the Judge handed down the two year prison term and officials arrested him at the end of the hearing.

Prisoner of conscience Kabduakasov's lawyer Gulmira Shaldykova described the two-year prison term to Madi Bekmaganbetov of Radio Free Europe's Kazakh Service as "too harsh". She pointed out that Kabduakasov has eight children, six of them still minors. She said she would discuss with her client whether to appeal against the verdict to a higher court.

Kabduakasov's Pastor, Andrei Teteryuk of Astana's Adventist Church, condemned the sentence as a violation of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights documents that Kazakhstan has signed up to. "Freedom of religious confession and of conscience is the basic civil right in any society recognised as democratic and constitutional," he told Bekmaganbetov of Radio Free Europe.

The person who answered the phone of Investigator Gabdykaparov later on 28 December listened to Forum 18's request to speak to him and then put the phone down without responding. All subsequent calls went unanswered.

The telephone of KNB secret police investigator Belesov, who prepared the initial case, went unanswered each time Forum 18 called the same day.

Forum 18 
Радиы Азаттык 

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