Uzbekistan: Refugee Pastor Facing Up to 15 Years
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent
TASHKENT, UZBEKISTAN (Worthy News)– Uzbekistan is seeking to extradite refugee Makset Djabbarbergenov from Kazakhstan on charges that carry a maximum 15-year jail term.
The 32-year-old Protestant pastor fled to Kazakhstan in 2007 after police raided his home in Nukus for holding an illegal religious meeting.
The charge sheet reads that on August 9, 2007, Djabbarbergenov invited eleven people to his Nukus home and “without specialised religious education and without permission from a central administration of a religious organisation taught them the teaching of the banned religious organisation Isa-Masih (Jesus Messiah) with the aim of creating the banned Isa-Masih sect.” Further, in addition to financing the sect, Djabbarbergenov recruited new members and personally assigned them duties and directions of a religious nature.
The Uzbek charges –- exercising freedom of religion, or belief –- can be equated to terrorism-related charges under Kazakh law.
Article 229-2 of the Uzbek Criminal Code bans “teaching religious beliefs without specialised religious education and without permission from the central organ of a (registered) religious organisation, as well as teaching religious beliefs privately” and carries a maximum of three years imprisonment. Article 244-2, Part 1 bans “creation, leadership or participation in religious extremist, separatist, fundamentalist or other banned organisations,” and is punishable by five to 15 years.
Aigul Tleumuratova, Djabbarbergenov’s wife, said she was prevented by Kazakh authorities from visiting her husband in prsion.
“We want him freed,” she told Forum 18. “I and our older children are praying for him. We all miss him.”
Tleumuratova is expecting their fifth child while Djabbarbergenov remains in Almaty’s Investigation Prison, Kazakhstan.
In 2011, Tleumuratova and the rest of Djabbarbergenov’s family was denied refugee status by the Kazakh government despite that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had formally recognised their status as refugees back in 2008.