By BosNewsLife News Center in Budapest
BUDAPEST/ASTANA (BosNewsLife)– Kazakhstan has threatened to extradite a detained Protestant house church pastor to his native Uzbekistan where he faces up to 15 years imprisonment for “illegal” religious teaching and Christian literature distribution, BosNewsLife monitored Saturday, November 24.
Makset Djabbarbergenov, 32, fled to neighboring Kazakhstan in 2007 after police raided his home in the Uzbek city of Nukus while holding a Christian meeting there, according to rights activists and Christians.
Prosecutors claim Djabbarbergenov invited 11 people to his home “without specialized religious education” and without official permission from a recognized religious organization.
The Uzbek pastor “financed” and wanted to set up an illegal “sect” named ‘Isa-Masih’ or ‘Jesus Messiah’, according to court documents.
Evangelical Christians in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and other former Soviet nations say they are often forced to gather in underground house churches as authorities refuse to recognize their congregations and groups.
Uzbek laws ban “teaching religious beliefs without specialized religious education and without permission from the central organ of a [registered] religious organization”.
Other prison-carrying crimes include “teaching religious beliefs privately” and the “creation, leadership or participation in religious extremist, separatist, fundamentalist or other banned organizations.”
If convicted on the charges, he could face some 15 years imprisonment, according to trial observers.
Aigul Tleumuratova, Djabbarbergenov’s wife, said in published remarks that she was prevented by Kazakh authorities from visiting her husband in Almaty’s Investigation Prison, where he has been behind bard since early September.
“We want him freed,” she said in a statement distributed by advocacy group Forum 18. “I and our older children are praying for him. We all miss him.”
Tleumuratova and her jailed husband are expecting their fifth child.
In 2011 the family was denied asylum by the Kazakh government, though the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reportedly recognized their status as refugees back in 2008.
The controversy over the pastor comes at a sensitive time for the region: This year autocratically ruled Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan celebrated 20 years of diplomatic relations, which began shortly after the countries broke away from the Soviet Union.