Entries in persecution (4)


Kazakhstan: An Absurd Travesty of Injustice in Yklas Kabduakasov’s case

Verdict, p. 10
*This phrase translates as follows: "We cannot be traitors to Islam in any way."
Yklas was eventually sentenced to two years in a prison camp for uttering this phrase during a Sunday sermon for Evangelical Christian Baptists. I find it difficult to call this anything less than an absurd travesty of injustice.

In the fight against religious extremism and hatred, the state should always respect the freedom of religion and belief, which is an inalienable, boundless, and universal right. According to Paragraph 2, Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the human rights that cannot be altered or suspended, even in a state of emergency, are the rights to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, which are on par with the right to life.

Unfortunately, in modern-day Kazakhstan, we are seeing many disturbing trends in religious policy. As an illustration, I would like to present the case of Yklas Kabduakasov, the first Christian in Kazakhstan to be convicted and sentenced to a real prison term for his faith. (It should be noted that he is not the first Christian in the nation to be convicted for his faith. There have been many others, such as Pastor Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev, who was arrested under fabricated charges in May 2013, but his prison sentence was eventually suspended.)

In August 2015, Yklas Kabduakasov, who converted from Islam to Christianity, was arrested and subsequently charged under Article 174 of the Criminal Code. In the indictment, he was accused of misinterpreting the Sacred Books, the Koran and the Bible, and spreading religious discord among indigenous Muslim people. Yklas’s arrest is particularly disturbing, because Kazakhstan’s constitution guarantees the freedom of belief.

It appears that this nation is breaking its own religion laws, which brings up several questions. On what basis could investigators and experts in Kazakhstan, a secular country, expect to correctly evaluate Yklas’ religious convictions and actions? Why did Kazakh police officers ask him provocative questions about his faith when they already knew about his Christian convictions? Why did experts without any philological, theological, or religious education conduct a philological analysis of faith and religion? In addition to these disconcerting facts, after the first day of Yklas’ trial, the media publicized a report based on false information, in which they accused him of calling for war against Islam. Many subsequent articles containing false information about the trial were also published.

Below is an excerpt from the trial’s verdict, where you can clearly see the absurdity of Yklas’ sentence.

The Court has reliably determined that the convicted defendant, before the meeting with the witnesses, was actively engaged in propagandistic activities in a community of indigenous natives aimed at disseminating the teachings of the Christian religion, and the establishment of its superiority and the inferiority of the Islamic religion.

In this regard, the Court rightly took as the basis for the sentence the above testimony of witnesses who unswervingly and consistently over the pre-trial investigation and the court hearing insisted that Kabduakasov publicly distributed religious ideology aimed at inciting religious hatred.

Their statements are consistent with the case materials produced in the trial.

Thus, from the videos viewed in the courts of first and appellate instances, it follows that in Kabduakasov's statements, we can trace elements of a negative attitude towards Islam, and the superiority of the Christian religion.

For example, in an episode dated 10/04/2014, despite the fact that Kabduakasov was in the audience while Deacon K. Dyakonov was conducting divine service among the parishioners, Kabduakasov expresses his opinion about Islam in the following phrase: "Бiз саткын Ислам бела алмаймыз никак”*, which testifies to his negative attitude towards Islam and his imposition of his beliefs on the indigenous.

Verdict, p. 10

*This phrase translates as follows: "We cannot be traitors to Islam in any way."

Yklas was eventually sentenced to two years in a prison camp for uttering this phrase during a Sunday sermon for Evangelical Christian Baptists. I find it difficult to call this anything less than an absurd travesty of injustice.

The case against Yklas Kabduakasov shows that Christians in Kazakhstan are in no better position than during the Soviet era, when Christians were imprisoned for their faith, as this is still happening today.


KAZAKHSTAN: Two-month secret police detention – prosecution to follow?

Kazakhstan's KNB secret police arrested Seventh-day Adventist Yklas Kabduakasov on the evening of 14 August after searching his home in the capital Astana and confiscating religious books. Also searched the same day was the Adventist church where he worships. On 15 August an Astana court ordered he be held in two-month pre-trial detention at the secret police Investigation Prison, the court chancellery told Forum 18 News Service. Kabduakasov is challenging this detention at a hearing tomorrow morning (21 August), his lawyer Gulmira Shaldykova told Forum 18. The secret police claim he was spreading "religious discord" when discussing his faith with and offering Christian books to others. Secret police Investigator Diyar Idrishov refused to discuss Kabduakasov's case. "I was merely a witness to his arrest and am not involved in the investigation," he told Forum 18. He said Investigator Nurlan was leading the criminal case (with a possible five to ten year prison sentence), but the man who answered his phone repeatedly hung up when Forum 18 asked about the case.

Seventh-day Adventist Yklas Kabduakasov is to challenge a court decision to imprison him for two months' pre-trial detention, his lawyer Gulmira Shaldykova told Forum 18 News Service from Kazakhstan's capital Astana on 20 August. The challenge is due to be heard tomorrow morning (21 August) at Astana City Court. The 54-year-old Kabduakasov was arrested by the National Security Committee (KNB) secret police on the evening of 14 August and is being held at their Investigation Prison in the city. They claim he was spreading "religious discord" when discussing his faith with and offering Christian books to others.

Judge Nabi Pazylov of Astana's Saryarka District Court No. 2 ordered Kabduakasov's two-month pre-trial detention at a hearing on Saturday 15 August, the court chancellery told Forum 18 on 20 August. "We consider such detention cases even on a Saturday or a Sunday," the official – who did not give his name - said. "It makes no difference what day it is." He said the detention suit had been brought by the KNB secret police investigator. The lawyer Shaldykova represented Kabduakasov at the hearing.

Kabduakasov's arrest was mentioned at the weekly service of his Adventist congregation in Astana on Saturday 15 August, a congregation member told Forum 18.


Kabduakasov, who works for an Astana-based building company Stroiinvest, was stopped by the traffic police in Astana on 14 August and taken back to his home in the city, those close to him told Forum 18 from Astana on 18 August. Once there, KNB secret police officers searched his home and confiscated several Christian books. At about 6 pm, at the end of the search, the KNB officers arrested him.

At least some family members learnt of Kabduakasov's arrest only in the early hours of 15 August. Later on 15 August, the KNB secret police Investigator summoned relatives to bring Kabduakasov something to eat in prison.

The church in Astana that Kabduakasov attends was also searched on 14 August, Forum 18 understands.


UZBEKISTAN: Large fine follows police bullying of children

Pastor Sergei Rychagov of Grace Presbyterian Church near Uzbekistan's capital Tashkent was heavily fined for violating the Religion Law, missionary activity, "illegal" religious teaching and violating the procedure for holding religious meetings. However, he learned of the fine only in June, Protestants told Forum 18 News Service. Police bullied children from a local orphanage who had been attending the church into writing statements against him, they added. The officer who brought the case insisted to Forum 18 that Rychagov had violated the law, while the judge who fined him refused to explain why he had done so. In Urgench, Anti-Terrorism Police accused a local Baptist of "teaching religion illegally". Police have already seized religious literature and the man's car. Asked by Forum 18 why other Baptists are being questioned to incriminate him, Anti-Terrorism Police Major Shavkat Bekchanov responded: "Who are you and why should I discuss the case with you over the phone?"

Police brought administrative charges against a Protestant pastor near Uzbekistan's capital Tashkent after forcing children from a local orphanage to write statements officers could use to bring the case, local Protestants complained to Forum 18 News Service. Although a court handed down a large fine in February, the pastor found out about it only in June.

Police bullying of children

Police bullied young people into writing statements against Pastor Sergei Rychagov of Grace Presbyterian Church, in the town of Dostabod in Tashkent Region's Kuyichirchik District. The five young people, all orphans between the ages of 15 and 18, live in Special Children's Boarding School No. 46, local Protestants who wish to remain anonymous for fear of state reprisals told Forum 18 on 4 August.

Then Headteacher Shakir Khalikulov gave permission in 2012 for the young people to start going on Saturdays to a private home next to the Church building, where they took baths, were fed, and also worked in the grounds of the Church. On Sundays they participated in the Church's meetings for worship. However, in late 2014 police pressured them into writing statements describing what went on at the church premises.

On the basis of these statements Captain Mirjasur Anvarov of Kuychirchik Police Station opened an administrative case against Pastor Rychagov.

Pastor Rychagov's Church was in 2012 raided and subjected to state-sponsored media attack, as well as he himself being fined (see F18News 18 September 2012 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1744).


Police Captain Anvarov brought charges against Pastor Rychagov under four parts of the Code of Administrative Offences:

- Article 201, Part 2 ("Violation of the procedure for holding religious meetings, street processions, or other religious ceremonies");

- Article 240 (Violation of the Religion Law), Part 1 ("Carrying out of unauthorised religious activity, evasion by leaders of religious organisations of registration of the charter of the organisation, the unauthorised organisation and conduct of worship by religious ministers, and the organisation and conduct of special children's and youth meetings, as well as vocational, literature and other study groups not relating to worship"); 

- Article 240, Part 2 ("Attracting believers of one confession to another (proselytism) and other missionary activity");

- and Article 241, Part 1 ("Teaching religious beliefs without specialised religious education and without permission from the central organ of a [registered] religious organisation, as well as teaching religious beliefs privately").

Rychagov "violated the Religion Law", Captain Anvarov insisted to Forum 18 on 5 August. Asked why he opened a case against the Pastor for helping orphans, Anvarov responded: "I can't tell you about the case over the phone, you need to come to our office." When Forum 18 asked why Pastor Rychagov was charged under Article 241, even though he has religious education and is a Pastor of a state-registered Church, Anvarov put the phone down.

Massive fine in February, Pastor told of hearing and fine in June

Judge Khakim Malikov of Tashkent Region's Kuyichirchik District Criminal Court heard the case against Rychagov on 27 February – even though the Pastor had not been told of the hearing and so was not present and could not arrange to be defended. The Judge fined him 9,472,000 Soms (about 30,360 Norwegian Kroner, 3,380 Euros, or 3,675 US Dollars at the inflated official exchange rate).

Rychagov found out about the hearing and fine only on 22 June, local Protestants who know him, and who asked not to be named for fear of state reprisals, told Forum 18.

Local Protestants told Forum 18 that the hearing and punishment of Pastor Rychagov were illegal. For example:

- none of the young people's statements were dated;

- the case was registered on 24 December 2014 but the hearing took place on 27 February 2015 – exceeding Administrative Code Article 36's two-month limit for bringing cases to court;

- there is no evidence in the case materials that Rychagov was notified in advance of the court hearing;

- and contrary to the charges under Article 241, Rychagov has a religious education, and his Church is officially registered with Tashkent Region's Justice Department.

Asked by Forum 18 on 5 August why he fined Pastor Rychagov in his absence and with violations of legal procedure, Judge Malikov refused to answer. He claimed instead that Rychagov "ran away and is being searched for". When Forum 18 repeated the earlier question and asked why Article 241 was used when it does not apply to an authorised person of a state-registered religious organisation, he replied "no comments over the phone" before refusing to discuss the case further.

Police still hunting woman, harassing and charging family

Police in Karshi in the south-eastern Kashkadarya Region are still hunting Guljahon Kuzebayeva, a local Protestant, local Protestants who asked not to be named for fear of state reprisals told Forum 18 on 31 July.

Kuzebayeva has been in hiding from police since July 2014, as they allege she talked to family members about her Christian faith. She fears torture during interrogation and possible short-term jailing, fellow Protestants have told Forum 18 (see F18News 14 April 2015 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2055).

The use of informal physical violence and torture against women and men, or threats of this, by the authorities is widespread in Uzbekistan (see Forum 18's Uzbekistan religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1862).

Between 7 and 23 May police harassed and raided Kuzebayeva's relatives and neighbour in repeated attempts to find her. They behaved insultingly, "like hooligans", local Protestants complained (see F18News 4 June 2015 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2070). In early July the raids and harassment continued (see F18News 24 July 2015 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1980).

At lunchtime on 24 July, Ilhom Yakhshiyev, Fakhridddin Jurayev and Dilmurod Boboyev of Karshi Police came to Kuzebayeva's home. They told her family that her daughter-in-law Dilnora Boboyeva (no relation of Dilmurod Boboyev) allegedly claimed in May 2015 that Kuzebayeva abducted Boboyeva's son for three days. Local Protestants told Forum 18 that Boboyeva had voluntarily left the boy at Kuzebayeva's home. Police refused to provide the family with any documentation of their claims.

Police officer Yakhshiyev refused to tell Forum 18 on 5 August why police are harassing Kuzebayeva and her family. He then put the phone down.

Shahnoza Berdiyeva, Kuzebayeva's niece, was fined in mid-July "for not obeying police orders", officer Nodyr told Forum 18 on 5 August. Asked what charges were brought and where, he claimed that "I don't remember". Asked why police are harassing Kuzebayeva's family and what exactly she is accused of, officer Nodyr asked Forum 18 to call back in 20 minutes. He refused to answer and put the phone down when Forum 18 called back.

Home raided, car confiscated

Police in Urgench in the north-western Khorezm Region on 20 July raided the home of Stanislav Kim, a member of a local Council of Churches Baptist Church, as two other local Baptists – Mirzabek Kuranbayev and Dmitry Krasnokutsky – were with him, local Protestants told Forum 18 on 5 August.

"Police checked passports, and then claimed that a woman wrote a complaint that Kim gave two Christian books to her brother as a present," the Protestants told Forum 18. Kim had given the man the books at his request, they added. Police then searched Kim's home and car, and confiscated Kim's passport, several books and a notebook from the car, as well as the car itself. Kim's passport has been returned, but not his car.

The officials then brought all three Baptists to Urgench Police Station, and put Pastor Kim's car in the Police Station's pound for confiscated cars.

Detained, interrogated, pressured

The three Baptists were kept at the Police Station for questioning until 1 am the following morning, 21 July. After being released, Pastor Kim and Kuranbayev were that morning again summoned to the Police Station, where they were held for questioning all day. The 15-year-old Krasnokutsky was brought to the Police Station that evening.

Major Shukhrat Masharipov and Shavkat Bekchanov of Urgench Anti-Terrorism Police demanded that Kuranbayev and Krasnokutsky state that Pastor Kim is "teaching religion illegally", local Protestants complained. Kuranbayev was questioned in Uzbek, a language he does not understand, then at 10 pm sent to a detention centre for minors. He was released the next day, 22 July.

Local Protestants fear that charges will be brought against Pastor Kim under Administrative Code Article 241, Part 1 ("Teaching religious beliefs without specialised religious education and without permission from the central organ of a [registered] religious organisation, as well as teaching religious beliefs privately").

No-one from Urgench Police was willing to discuss the case with Forum 18 on 5 August. Questioned by Forum 18 about the pressure exerted on two Baptists, including a minor, to incriminate Pastor Kim, Anti-Terrorism Police Major Bekchanov responded: "Who are you and why should I discuss the case with you over the phone?" 




Since the onset of the activization of the East Ukrainian separatist movements and the so-called proclamation of the Donetsk and Luhansk "people's republics" (DNR and LNR), Christians in the eastern regions, especially evangelical religious denominations, are increasingly the victims of religious persecution. 

Targeted attacks have been carried out by armed militants against evangelicals, accompanied by abductions, beatings, torture, threats of execution, pogroms in places of prayer meetings, seizures of houses of worship, rehabilitation centers and other places of worship along with support facilities, with bodily harm inflicted on pastors and priests and damage to their personal property.

There is factual documentation of the capture and beating of evangelical pastors and ministers occurring in May – June 2014 in Slovyansk, Gorlovka, Donetsk and Druzhkovka. DNR and LNR terrorists not only have been preventing the religious activities of evangelical Christians, they are also taking over the houses of worship to accommodate their own staffs, hospitals and gun emplacements. These incidents have occurred repeatedly in Donetsk and Gorlovka, as well as in Slovyansk, Shakhtersk, Druzhkovka, and Torez in the Donetsk Region and in Luhansk.

Moreover, on June 14 in a terrorist attack on the bridge in Mariupol, DNR militants killed Pastor Sergey Skorobagach from the Vivification Church, who also served as the Chairman of the City Council of Churches.

The Council of Evangelical Protestant Churches of Ukraine condemns any discrimination and religious persecution of believers in the Donetsk and Luhansk Regions, whatever the motives may be to justify them.

Intolerance and hostility on religious grounds are not inherent in Ukrainian society, where over 50 representatives of various faiths have peacefully coexisted and fruitfully cooperated for over 20 years. Freedom of religion is the achievement of an independent Ukraine, thanks to which inter-religious peace and harmony have been established in our country.

We call upon the international community, including the monitoring missions of the UN, OSCE, the Council of Europe and the European Union to make efforts to prevent the continuation and escalation of religious intolerance in the territories of Eastern Ukraine controlled by armed separatists. We are convinced that the entire world community must condemn the oppression of religious freedom in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which has reached the level of physical violence against those with dissenting viewpoints, including real mortal threats to evangelical Christians in Eastern Ukraine. 

We ask believers around the world to join us in our prayers for peace in Eastern Ukraine, that terrorism and bloodshed may end, and that we see a restoration of normal life and to the fullness of the rights and freedoms of Ukrainian citizens living in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, regardless of their nationality, religion, language and worldview.

Signed by the members the Council of Evangelical Protestant Churches of Ukraine and promulgated in Kiev on 07/08/2014:

  • ·       Anatoly Gavriliouk, Senior Bishop, Center for Independent Charismatic Christian Churches of Ukraine (Full Gospel);
  • ·       Valery Antoniuk, Chairman, All-Ukrainian Union of Evangelical Chirstian-Baptist Churches
  • ·       Michael Panochko, Senior Bishop, Church of Evangelical Christians of Ukraine;
  • ·       Vasily Raychinets, Senior Presbyter, Union of Free Churches of Christians of Evangelical Faith of Ukraine;
  • ·       Sergei Shaptala, Chairman, Brotherhood of Independent Churches and Missions of Evangelical Christians-Baptists of Ukraine;
  • ·       Sergei Datsko, Chairman, Association of Missionary Churches of Evangelical Christians in Ukraine;
  • ·       Nicholai Salamakha, Deputy Senior Bishop, Ukrainian Christian Evangelical Church;
  • ·       Vyacheslav Gorpinchuk, Bishop, Ukrainian Lutheran Church;
  • ·       Anatoly Kalyuzhniy, Bishop, Council of Independent Evangelical Churches of Ukraine.


Source: Institute of Religious Freedom, Kiev