A pastor who is facing extradition from Kazakhstan could be jailed for up to 15 years if he is returned to Uzbekistan, where he is wanted for violating the country’s harsh restrictions on religious freedom.
Makset Djabbarbergenov (32), a father of four, was arrested at his home in Almaty on 5 September, his youngest son’s second birthday. He was initially detained for a period of 40 days while his extradition case was considered, but this has been extended until 5 November.
The Uzbek authorities’ initial detention request referred to two charges, each carrying a maximum three year jail term: “violation of the procedure for teaching religion” and “illegal production, storage, import or distribution of religious literature”.
But the latest court decision in Makset’s case reveals that the second charge has been changed to the much more serious offence of “creation, leadership or participation in religious extremist, separatist, fundamentalist or other banned organisations”, which is punishable by five to 15 years in prison.
The Kazakh court claimed that the Uzbek charges can be equated to terrorism-related offences in Kazakhstan.
Makset’s wife, Aigul Tleumuratova, who is pregnant with the couple’s fifth child, has not been allowed to see her husband since his arrest.
We want him freed. I and our older children are praying for him. We all miss him.
Makset fled his homeland to Kazakhstan in 2007 following a prolonged campaign of harassment against him by the Uzbek secret police. The final straw was a police raid on his home in Nukus; the authorities claimed he was holding an “illegal” religious meeting and confiscated Christian literature, money and a computer.
The pastor sought refugee status for himself and his family with the United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR); the request was granted in February 2008. This status affords them protection from forcible return to a country where they would face threats to life or freedom. But disregarding this ruling, the Kazakh government in 2011 denied Djabbarbergenov’s family refugee status.
Makset was detained by the Kazakh secret police in 2008 and freed only after the UNHCR actively sought his release.
The Kazakh authorities re-launched efforts to arrest him earlier this year, tracking him down through his sister-in-law, whom they detained for two weeks.
Kazakhstan is bidding to join the UN Human Rights Council, arguing that its election would “enhance the credibility and effectiveness of the Human Rights Council”.
Source: Barnabas Aid