From Forum 18 New Service, August 23, 2015: Kazakhstan police arrested Yklas Kabduakasov, an Adventist church member, on the evening of Friday, August 14, after searching his home in the capital Astana and confiscating religious books. The local church where he is a member was also searched the same day. On Sabbath, August 15, an Astana court ordered that he be held in pre-trial detention for up to two months at the police Investigation Prison, the court chancellery told Forum 18 News Service. Forum 18 is a human rights organization based in Oslo, Norway.
Kabduakasov challenged this detention at a hearing yesterday morning (August 21), his lawyer, Gulmira Shaldykova, told Forum 18. The secret police claim he was spreading “religious discord” by discussing his faith with and offering Christian books to individuals in the community. If convicted, the Adventist church member could face a prison sentence of five to ten years.
Kabduakasov’s arrest was mentioned at the weekly service of his Adventist congregation in Astana on Sabbath, August 15, a member told Forum 18. Members also prayed for him yesterday.
Kabduakasov, who works for an Astana-based building company Stroiinvest, was stopped by the traffic police in Astana on August 14 and taken back to his home in the city, those close to him told Forum 18. Once there, police officers searched his home and confiscated several Christian books. At about 6 pm, at the end of the search, the officers arrested him. The church in Astana where Kabduakasov attends was also searched on August 14.
Kazakhstan’s tight restrictions on exercising the right to freedom of belief include a ban on anyone apart from individuals appointed specifically by registered religious communities and who have personal registration with the state as “missionaries” (whether local citizens or foreigners) from conducting “missionary” activity. Any religious literature such state-approved “missionaries” use also requires specific state approval. Anyone else who talks to another person about their faith or gives them a book on a religious topic risks punishment.
The police are believed to have been keeping Kabduakasov under surveillance in recent months, including through the use of video surveillance, because he made it a practice to discussing his faith with others. In May the police apparently gave him a written warning about his “missionary activity” which they insisted was “illegal,” sources close to him told Forum 18.
The police were investigating Kabduakasov for “incitement of social, national, clan, racial, or religious discord” under the nation’s Criminal Code Article 174, Part 2, the court chancellery and Kabduakasov’s lawyer separately confirmed to Forum 18. This law prescribes punishment for repeat “offenders,” with prison terms of between five and ten years.
On July 2 a court in Kazakhstan’s commercial capital, Almaty, sentenced a Sunni Muslim prisoner, Saken Tulbayev, to four years and eight months in a labor camp under Criminal Code Article 174, Part 1. The court also found him guilty under Criminal Code Article 405, Part 2 for participation in a banned religious movement and punished him with one year (to run concurrently) and a ban on “activity directed at meeting the religious needs of believers” for two additional years. His family insists that the publications used to prosecute him had been planted by police in the family apartment.
The police detective leading the case against Kabduakasov has the first name Nurlan, his colleague Investigator Diyar Idrishov told Forum 18 from Astana on August 19. The man who answered the phone at Nurlan’s phone at the Astana police office on Friday (August 20) did not give his name and repeatedly put the phone down as soon as Forum 18 asked about Kabduakasov’s case. This “Nurlan” is believed to be the officer in Astana with responsibility for keeping the city’s Christian congregations under surveillance, those familiar with his activity told Forum 18.
Reached on the evening of August 19, the duty officer at the police Investigation Prison would not give his name and repeatedly refused to give Forum 18 any information about Kabduakasov, without giving any reason. The officer would only confirm that Kabduakasov is still alive. The duty officer on August 20 similarly refused to give any information.
For supporters who may wish to write to Kabduakasov, his prison address is: SIZO KNB g. Astana, 010003 Astana, Ul. Shyntas 2, Kazakhstan