Seven Years’ Restricted Freedom for Discussing Christianity in Kazakhstan

Forum 18
Forum 18

In a case brought by the KNB secret police, Seventh-day Adventist Yklas Kabduakasov was this month sentenced to seven years’ restricted freedom by a court in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana. He was found guilty of spreading “religious discord” by discussing his Christian faith with a group of students who invited him to a flat rented by one of them. “My father’s religious liberties and basic human rights were violated by the fact that he was kept under arrest without any grounds since 14 August and has now been sentenced,” one of his sons Alibek Kabduakasov complained to Forum 18 News Service. The Prosecutor, the Judge and the KNB secret police all refused to discuss the case with Forum 18.

More than 12 weeks after his arrest by Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee (KNB) secret police, Seventh-day Adventist Yklas Kabduakasov was this afternoon (9 November) sentenced to seven years’ restricted freedom by a court in the capital Astana, Forum 18 News Service has learned. Both Kabduakasov and his community repeatedly denied prosecution accusations that he spread “religious discord” when discussing his faith with and offering Christian books to others.

“My father’s religious liberties and basic human rights were violated by the fact that he was kept under arrest without any grounds since 14 August and has now been sentenced,” one of his sons Alibek Kabduakasov, who acted as his public defender, complained to Forum 18 from Astana on 9 November after the sentence was handed down. He said that they are preparing to appeal against both the punishment and his “unlawful arrest”.

Until 2022, Kabduakasov will have to live under close scrutiny. The Judge banned him from leaving the city, changing his place of residence or place of work without permission. She also banned him from visiting places of public entertainment, such as cafes, restaurants, bars, night clubs and discos.

In addition, Kabduakasov was ordered to pay about 150,000 Tenge (4,200 Norwegian Kroner, 450 Euros or 490 US Dollars) to cover the cost of the “expert analyses” of his statements that formed the basis of the prosecution. It remains unclear by when he will need to pay this or if this fee is still payable if he wins his appeal.

Judge Akmaral Isayeva of Astana’s Saryarka District Court No. 2 handed down the sentence at the end of the 16th and final hearing of the trial, which began on the morning of 8 October 2015.

After the sentence was announced, officials unlocked Kabduakasov’s handcuffs and he was allowed to leave the courtroom at the end of the trial, those present told Forum 18. Radio Free Europe’s Kazakh Service showed film of Kabduakasov being congratulated on his release from imprisonment outside the courtroom.

Kabduakasov’s lawyer Gulmira Shaldykova told Forum 18 from Astana after the hearing that as soon as the Judge issues the written verdict, she will lodge his appeal to Astana City Court.

The 54-year-old Kabduakasov has eight children, of which the youngest – a son Daniil – was born on 12 September (while Kabduakasov was already in prison). His two eldest children are adults.

The KNB secret police are the driving force behind a series of criminal prosecutions of individuals for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief by talking to others about faith.

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