6 October 2008
KAZAKHSTAN: MONTHS IN PRISON FOR LEADING UNREGISTERED WORSHIP?
If convicted at his trial due on 9 October in the northern town of Esile, Baptist pastor Andrei Blok could face up to four months' imprisonment. He is being tried for refusing to pay an earlier fine for leading his unregistered church, part of what local Council of Churches Baptists describe as the authorities' "economic war" against them. Local Baptists told Forum 18 News Service Blok considered the fine "unfounded and illegal". The town police chief admitted to Forum 18 Blok is being prosecuted because of his unregistered religious activity. In mid-September, another Baptist pastor, Aleksandr Kerker, was given his second massive fine for leading unregistered worship, amid moves to seize his land and two cows for failure to pay his first fine. "The Baptists still go on holding their meetings - no one is really pressuring them," the judge who rejected Kerker's appeal told Forum 18. In the southern city of Shymkent, officials raided the Protestant New Life church's Sunday morning worship service.Like other religious leaders, the pastor was forced to fill out an intrusive questionnaire asking about the ethnic composition of his community. One official accused the pastor of "corrupting Kazakh nationals to change their religion".