Persecution of Non-Muslims (Kazakhstan)

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Note that the persecution of apostates and the persecution of homosexuals are covered in separate pages

Pastor threatened and accused of "harming a man’s health" by praying for him, could face 2 years in jail. In a similar case, another pastor who prayed for a sick woman was fined the equivalent of more than 8 years salary

Rev Yerzhan Ushanov, a pastor with the New Life Protestant Church in the city of Taraz, could face up to two years' imprisonment if criminal charges of harming an person’s health are brought against him for praying for the patient, this according to the Forum 18 news agency, which also reports other examples of heavy handed actions against religious freedom by Kazakhstan's National Security Committee (KNB), the country’s secret service.

According to the charges, Aleksandr Kereyev got sick after Ushanov used hypnosis against him in a church. Local sources say the patient was not a member of the community, and that he visited their church three or four times over a six-month period that ended in March.

"This is not the first time the authorities in the southern regions of Kazakhstan bring such absurd accusations against pastors for allegedly using hypnosis, while in reality all they do is pray for the sick," New Life Church members, who asked for anonymity, told Forum 18.

Rev Ushanov is facing prosecution under Criminal Code Article 111 ("causing severe damage to health due to negligence"), which includes heavy fines and jail time.

In another case in Jambyl Region, the KNB charged another local Protestant clergyman, Rev Vissa Kim, pastor of Grace Light of Love Protestant Church, Forum 18 reported. The latter was given a fine of 141,300 tenge (almost US$ 1,000) for praying for a sick woman. The money is the equivalent of more than eight years of salary. The conviction was upheld in appeal and Kim was forced to pay the fine.

Eventually, the Kazakhstan Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s decision on a technicality but the clergyman has not yet been refunded.

Many members of the New Life Protestant Church want to know why the KNB and the Department for the Fight against Extremism, Separatism and Terrorism went after the Church.

The KNB has not stopped harassing the Church. On 19 June, it searched one of its places of worship in Taraz because a woman, Olesya Kotlyarova, had “complained that she was poisoned when she ate at the Church cafeteria recently”.

On 25 June, police searched Usharov’s home looking for evidence. They claimed to have found a book in Russian about modern hypnosis, which the reverend denies ever owning.

During the raid, the KNB seized his computer and hundreds of DVDs, Christian books, and documents and data concerning the Church’s membership. They told the clergyman to “change profession” and leave Taraz for his own good. They also warned him not to create “troubles” for the members of his Church.

Forum 18 contacted the authorities, which refused to discuss the case. However, the faithful continue to complain that the KNB has been interfering with their Church’s activities for months.

On 29 April, police barged into a church, interrupting a meeting. During their action, they videotaped those present and warned that their Church was a “dangerous sect”.

The church’s pastor, his wife and their three children were taken to a local station for questioning that lasted several hours.

In response to the Church's subsequent complaint, Aktobe City Police responded in an official letter that the actions of the officers were "not appropriate” and that they would be “reprimanded”.

On various occasions in the past few months, police has put pressure on the New Life Church to cancel its meetings, as well as on those willing to rent them space.

Churches being raided, leaders fined and Christian literature confiscated as the Kazakh authorities enforce new laws intended further to restrict religious freedom in the country

Aleksei Asetov, a father of ten, was fined 485,400 Tenge (US$3,300) – an estimated average local wage for 18 months – for leading a small unregistered church that meets in his home in Ekibastuz in Pavlodar Region. The property, including the parts where the family lives, was raided on 30 November by two officers from the Department for the Fight against Extremism, Separatism and Terrorism. They seized Christian literature in their search of the building.

On 19 January, a case was brought against him under the new legislation, and he was found guilty on 8 February of carrying out banned religious activity.

Aleksei is the fourth Christian known to have been fined since the harsh new Religion Law and changes to another associated law came into force in October 2011.

The other three are all from the Karaganda Region. Ivan Yantsen (62) was fined 75,600 Tenge (US$510) following a raid on 17 November, as part of “Operation Legal Order”, on a private home where his church meets. He was found guilty of “participation in the activity of a banned religious organisation”.

Aleksey Buka was fined on 1 December 2011 for participating in unregistered meetings for worship.

On 11 January, Yevgeni Savin was fined 161,800 Tenge (US$1,091) for leading unregistered religious meetings, following a raid on his home, where the church meets.

The council of churches to which all four belong has a policy of not paying fines issued to them for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief. Those who have previously refused to pay have been imprisoned for a short period or had property confiscated or the value of the fines taken directly from their wages.

A church in Petropavl in North Kazakhstan has twice been raided by the Police Department for the Fight against Extremism, Separatism and Terrorism, and an official from the Agency of Religious Affairs (ARA).

The first raid took place on 29 January during its Sunday service. Officers confiscated several New Testaments as well as Christian books and DVDs that were on a table in the foyer of the hall that the church rents, saying that the items were subject to “expert analysis”.

Officials returned to the church during its service two weeks later.

The head of North Kazakhstan’s Regional Department of the ARA said the church had “violated the Religion Law by distributing religious literature”.