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Kazakhstan: Retired pastor given suspended jail sentence
18 February 2014
The protracted trial of a retired Kazakh pastor ended yesterday (February 18), as 67-year-old Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev was handed a suspended four-year prison sentence and a fine.
Kashkumbayev, former pastor of Grace Church in the Kazakh capital Astana, was ordered to pay 2 million Tenge (£6,900) in damages to Lyazzat Almenova, a female congregant whose health the pastor was convicted of "harming". His jail term was suspended for three years.
The pastor, whose movements will continue to be restricted, is expected to appeal.
The case against Kashkumbayev dragged on for months after his arrest in May last year, when he was charged with the psychological manipulation of Lyazzat Almenova, 34, through the use of a "red-coloured hallucinogenic drink".
Other members of the congregation claimed the drink was a harmless, non-alcoholic beverage used as part of the church's Holy Communion - to represent the traditionally used, and symbolic, red wine.
Almenova told Forum 18 her pastor was "totally innocent", but the state arrested Kashkumbayev after Almenova's mother claimed her daughter's attendance at the church had damaged her mental health.
The investigation dates back two-and-a-half years; Almenova's mother first submitted her complaint in July 2011.
The pastor was moved to a psychiatric ward in Almaty, the former capital, on July 19, and ordered to remain there until September 17, while he underwent psychiatric examination. He was released early from the ward on September 8, then moved back to prison.
After a court hearing on September 10, the judge set a date of October 17 for the resumption of the case, but the date came and went
More News from Kazakhstan:
- 'New wave' of raids on churches
- Teenage murderer finds Christ
- Cards bring hope and encouragement
- Kazakh pastor's trial halts amid heated arguments
Find out more about persecution in Kazakhstan.