KAZAKHSTAN: Charges Follow Baptist Missionary Activity.

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service, 30 March 2001

Two Baptists from the western Kazakh town of Atyrau, who had been working in the village of Inderborsky in Atyrau region, are still facing criminal charges which church members claim have been instituted to halt their missionary activity in the village. Vladimir Nogotkov and Lyova Dzherbulov faced two weeks of almost daily interrogation sessions lasting from morning until evening back in January, Pastor Oleg Ladygin of the Baptist church in Atyrau told Keston News Service by telephone on 30 March, but they have not been detained. They were initially banned from leaving the village and had their personal documents confiscated, but these have now been returned. However, they were subsequently required to report to the police that they were leaving the town and the police case against them has not been dropped. Pastor Ladygin pledged that despite the charges, Baptist work in the village will continue.

Nogotkov (who had served a sentence for criminal activity before he became a Baptist) and Dzherbulov had taken part in the Atyrau church's missionary outreach to the village, located 200 kms (120 miles) north of Atyrau, which began late last year. `When church members arrived with their Christian library they went to the hokimat (local administration) to seek permission to work in the village and permission was given,' Pastor Ladygin told Keston. `They stayed for a week at a time, talking to people on the street and offering booklets from their library.' However, he reported that by early in the year opposition from local Muslim clerics was rising and the police told them it was better to leave to avoid tensions between Muslims and Christians.

Police then summoned the two for interrogations. `They were accused by the village police of crimes they had not committed,' local Baptists told Keston. `They were accused of forcing a group of adolescents at knife-point to commit thefts.' Sources claimed that some of the adolescents provided testimony against the two to try to escape responsibility for crimes they had themselves committed. Pastor Ladygin - who insists the case has been `fabricated' - reported that testimony against Lyova Dzherbulov's brother Vladimir had to be dropped because the statements obtained by the police from the adolescents were `contradictory'.

Pastor Ladygin told Keston that when the Baptists said they would enquire of the district procuracy why the charges had been instituted, the police told them that it was better if they did not do so and that they would sort out the matter. They said that if the two stayed away from Inderborsky the case against them would be dropped.

Keston has been unable to contact the Inderborsky police to find out what article of the criminal code the two were alleged to have broken and how the case was proceeding. (END)