KAZAKHSTAN: Baptist Beaten But Police Deny It.

Igor Rotar, Keston News Service, 12 November 2001

According to local Baptist sources, Asylbek Nurdanov was severely assaulted and threatened at his local police station on 27 October in the town of Kazalinsk in Kyzyl-Orda region close to the Aral Sea in southern Kazakhstan. One officer threatened to cut his tongue out with scissors if he did not renounce his faith. The local police chief admitted to Keston News Service that the church had been searched and Nurdanov questioned, but denied absolutely that he had been beaten or threatened, accusing him of lying. In an echo of similar moves elsewhere against unregistered Baptist churches in Kazakhstan (see separate KNS article), the police chief claimed that the Kazalinsk church was functioning illegally as it does not have registration.

Nurdanov's congregation belongs to the Council of Churches of Evangelical Christians/Baptists, which has a policy of not seeking or accepting registration in all the former Soviet republics where it is active.

"On 26 October at approximately 10pm [four] officials (two in civilian clothes and two in uniform), came to the church building where our fellow believer, brother Asylbek Nurdanov, was present at the time," local Baptists reported in a 3 November statement. "They conducted a search, and confiscated all the religious literature. They also ordered Asylbek to appear the following day at the police station, at room 34. There were several men inside this room, they were asking questions. A short while later a police major, Asanjan Eshniyazov, entered the room, approached Asylbek from behind and struck him on the head. Asylbek lost consciousness. They picked him up and began beating him. The same police major, pulling out a knife, began to threaten him. Afterwards, they undressed the believer. Kanat Oremuratov (in civilian clothes) tried strangling Asylbek with a belt. Then they pulled out a pair of scissors and threatened to cut off his tongue if he did not renounce Jesus Christ." Nurdanov refused to renounce his faith.

"We know nothing about this incident. Asylbek Nurdanov did not appeal to the public prosecutor's office, or we would have already known about this and could have launched a thorough investigation," the public prosecutor of Kazalinsk district, Ertel Jalgasbayev, told Keston on 9 November.

"Nurdanov is an absolute liar. No-one beat him and no-one threatened him," the chief of police in the town of Kazalinsk, Toistebek Musabayev, told Keston by telephone on 9 November. When speaking to Keston Musabeyev frequently used Russian swear words. For example, instead of the word "lie" he used a coarse equivalent.

Musabayev did not deny that police colleagues had carried out a search at the church, or that they had later questioned Nurdanov at the police station. "Nurdanov was delivering a sermon in an unregistered church. This bum (he didn't even have a passport) was carrying out a campaign among children," he told Keston. "All that is illegal, and we forced him to stop what he was doing. And after that he started to write slanders against us at every opportunity. Then we interviewed Nurdanov again and he admitted (we recorded this on video) that no-one had beaten him or threatened him." (END)