Released February 17, 2014
Pastor Bakhytzhan Kashkumbaev of Astana, Kazakhstan, was arrested on May 17, 2013 after allegations were made that he had harmed the health of one of his church members. Until his retirement in October 2012 at age 66, Pastor Kashkumbaev led the Grace Church in Astana, a legally registered protestant church.
After his arrest in May, he was freed on Oct. 8, 2013 to complete his pre-trial detention under house arrest. However, secret police waiting at the entrance to the prison rearrested the pastor as he left the prison. His family and wife had not seen him in five months. The pastor’s trial was due to take place in November 2013.
In July 2011, the mother of a church member asserted that prolonged influenced from the church undermined her daughter’s mental state and resulted in schizophrenia. The church member herself, however, says she was erroneously diagnosed after having a forced mental examination. She has spoken up publically for Pastor Kashkumbaev and stated that the charges of harming her health are unfounded.
In a long-running campaign against the church, state officials have accused the church of being involved in espionage, fraud, money laundering, distributing extremist texts and using hallucinogens in communion drink.
On Oct. 3, 2012, the church was raided and officials seized valuables such as gold items, computers, DVDs and books that were declared to be “extremist literature.” At the request of officials, church members voluntarily underwent blood tests to demonstrate that they were not under the influence of any hallucinogens. The results of the tests were not made known to the church members.
After his arrest in May 2013, a court mandated that Pastor Kashkumbaev undergo a psychiatric assessment on Aug. 9. He was then ordered to stay at the psychiatric hospital until Sept. 17. During his time in the hospital, there were grave concerns that the pastor would be subjected to psychotropic drugs and ruled mentally incompetent.
While being held in the psychiatric facility, the pastor, who converted from Islam to Christianity in 1995, was repeatedly questioned about why he followed Jesus rather than Allah. Nearly a month went by before his transfer back to the Investigative Prison.
Pastor Bakhytzhan Kashkumbaev, 67, the retired Presbyterian pastor of Grace Church in Atsana, Kazakhstan, was released on Feb. 17 after spending nine months in jail awaiting trial on a charge of “intentionally inflicting serious harm to health.” He was convicted of the charge and received a four-year suspended sentence. Although four other charges were dropped, some fear that new charges could be filed. Pastor Kashkumbaev was freed after court proceedings and returned to the home he shares with his wife, Alfiya. He plans to appeal the conviction.