KAZAKHSTAN: Baptist Released From Psychiatric Hospital.

Igor Rotar, Keston News Service, 16 November 2001

A young Baptist leader, Asylbek Nurdanov, from the town of Kazalinsk in Kyzyl-Orda region close to the Aral Sea in southern Kazakhstan, was freed from psychiatric hospital today (16 November), the US-based Russian Evangelistic Ministries told Keston News Service. His release came after a Baptist delegation, including Pastor Peter Peters from Russia, visited him in the in the town of Kyzyl-Orda where he had been held for nearly a week. He had been taken there forcibly on 10 November by police, who allegedly put pressure on his parents to write a statement complaining of his activities (see KNS 13 November).

Speaking to Keston, local Baptists questioned whether it was legal to send Nurdanov to psychiatric hospital in the first place. Asked to comment on the case, Terek Shotayev, the public prosecutor of the department for monitoring the activity of state agencies, at the public prosecutor's office in Kyzyl-Orda region, told Keston: "This is a very serious matter. Various international organizations have already shown an interest in Nurdanov's fate. Today in particular I have been seeing a delegation of Baptists from Moscow. We have already begun to investigate how far it was correct to use force to send Nurdanov for treatment in a psychiatric hospital and this investigation will be completed very shortly."

Anatoly Nigai, head doctor of the town psychiatric hospital of Kyzyl Orda, in a telephone conversation with Keston, said: "Nurdanov was brought to our hospital by members of the town police force of Kazalinsk. He was assigned a place at the hospital on the basis of a statement by his father, who considers that his son's mental state has gravely changed during the past year. At reception, Nurdanov behaved in such a way, that I personally started to have doubts about his mental health. For example, he declared that he 'was hearing the voice of Christ in his heart'. Nevertheless, I understand perfectly that Nurdanov's case is special. My own mother is a religious believer and I understand the feelings of pious people quite well. A delegation of Baptists from Moscow has already been to see me. I am now looking carefully at the literature they gave me. Nurdanov is already being examined by a group of independent psychologists, and if his health is judged to be normal, we will immediately release him."

Nigai denied the assertion made by Keston, that according to the laws of Kazakhstan, a person could only be forcibly placed in a psychiatric hospital if a court had declared his behaviour to be dangerous to those around him. "According to our laws, in order to place someone in a psychiatric hospital, it is enough to have a statement [of consent] from his nearest relatives. In addition, it cannot be excluded that Nurdanov's behaviour was dangerous to those around him, as he used to preach to minors," he told Keston.

Chair of the Almaty Helsinki committee, Ninel Fokina, told Keston on 16 November: "In Nurdanov's case, serious violations of the law were permitted. If a mentally ill person is dangerous, then he certainly can be placed in a psychiatric hospital for a short time (until a court confirms that he really is dangerous to those around him). However, in such a case, a doctor must visit the patient at home and certify that the psychiatric patient is dangerous to society. But Nurdanov was taken to the psychiatric hospital by members of the police force. In addition, the fact that Nurdanov was preaching to minors is not evidence that he was a danger to those around him". (END)