12/30/2015, 00.00
KAZAKHSTAN

Christian convert from Islam gets two years in prison for stirring religious hatred

Yklas Kabduakasov, a 54-year-old father of eight children, is a Seventh-day Adventist. In November, he was sentenced to seven years of restricted freedom and had books confiscated. His appeal ended with a prison sentence in a government labour camp. The charges against him were: inciting religious hatred. For Christian sources, he was punished for converting to Christianity.

Astana (AsiaNews) – A Kazakh court yesterday sentenced Seventh-day Adventist Yklas Kabduakasov to two years' imprisonment in a labour camp on specious charges of inciting religious hatred. In November, a lower court had given the 54-year-old father of eight a seven-year sentence of restricted freedom at home.

Forum 18 reported that Mr Kabduakasov was prosecuted on allegations of inciting religious hatred. This was done by talking to others about his faith. He and his fellow Church members reject the charges as baseless.

Local sources said that Kazakhstan’s secret police, the National Security Committee (KNB), tracked Kabduakasov’s movements and taped his discussions, especially on matters of faith. After a year, he was arrested on 14 August, and convicted on 9 November.

The KNB apparently rented a flat where four university students invited the accused for religious discussions, secretly taped the meetings and then used the evidence in the prosecution case.

A lower court sentenced him to seven years' restricted freedom, and ordered the destruction of nine Christian books that had been confiscated at his house. The Prosecutor had sought seven years' imprisonment in place of the restricted freedom sentence.

A court heard the appeal on 22 and 25 December, before imposing two years in a labour camp on 28 December. 

According to some Kazakh Christians, who withheld their names, he was tried because he had left Islam for Christianity. In addition, he had spoken with Muslims about the Gospel, raising the possibility of proselytising.

Kabduakasov’s case is thus seen as a warning to anyone tempted to leave Islam for Christianity.

Kazakh law strictly prohibits unregistered and unregulated religious activities. A 2012 law also bans religious literature that has not been formally authorised.

Thus, the authorities have the legal tools to crack down against various religious groups, like the Jehovah's Witnesses, Christians and Hare Krishna.

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