Astana (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Kazakh authorities charged Protestant man and convicted him for illegally handing out religious material. Vasily Stakhnev, a Baptist, broke Kazakhstan's religion law. Adopted on 21 October 2011, the law is the work of President Nursultan Nazarbayev. In a few months, it has proven highly controversial and has led to the banning of almost 600 churches and religious groups.
Unregistered religious activity is illegal in Kazakhstan, as is religious literature that has not passed state censorship.
With such a law in place, the authorities have raided religious groups, including Jehovah's Witness and Hare Krishna.
Baptists are an especially easy target because they refuse on principle to register with the government.
Citing local sources, Forum 18 reported that in February security agents raided the flats of Vasily Stakhnev and two other Baptists in Serebryansk, eastern Kazakhstan, a Christian booklets from all three.
In Stakhev's case, police pressured neighbours to sign statements that he had "stuck religious literature in the door handles or under the doors of their flats."
Although he acknowledges possessing Christian literature, Stakhev maintains that he is innocent and that never handed out material to others.
Despite his claims, a judge convicted him on 27 April for "carrying out of missionary activity by citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan, foreigners and persons without citizenship without registration".
Now Stakhev, who has launched an appeal against his sentence, has to pay a fine in excess of a thousand dollar, far more than what he earns.