Kazakh Christian Yklas Kabduakasov (55) is serving a two-year sentence in labour camp for sharing his faith with Muslims. He was arrested in August 2015 after discussing Christianity with a group of students, and was accused of “inciting religious discord”, a charge he denies.
LATEST NEWS (OCTOBER 2017): Yklas was released on 2 October and went home to his family, including a toddler born a month after Yklas was arrested.
Yklas works for a building company based in the capital, Astana, and attends a Seventh Day Adventist church. A former Muslim, when he became a Christian he started to share the gospel with family and friends. Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee (KNB, the secret police) is believed to have had Yklas under surveillance for over a year as he spoke to others about his faith.
In May 2015, the KNB apparently gave Yklas a written warning about his “missionary activity”, saying it was illegal. Forum 18 News Service reported that it appears the KNB rented the flat to which four university students invited Yklas for religious discussions. The KNB filmed the meetings with hidden cameras and used the footage as evidence in the prosecution case.
Kazakh Christians believe the reason for Yklas’ arrest is his conversion from Islam and the fact that he spoke to Muslims about his faith. They believe the KNB want to make him an example and send a message to all Kazakhs that they will face a similar fate if they convert to Christianity.
Yklas’ lawyer Gulmira Shaldykova said the two-year labour camp sentence was too harsh, especially as six of his children were minors. His pastor, Andrei Teteryuk of Astana’s Adventist Church, condemned the sentence as a violation of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights documents to which Kazakhstan has signed up.
The Kazakh government controls religion very strictly and prohibits evangelism. Police frequently raid church meetings, and Christian converts from Islam come under pressure from family and community to recant.
Yklas and his wife Karlygash have eight children, ranging from an adult son Alibek (a lawyer who is representing his father) to a toddler Daniil, born on 12 September 2015 – Karlygash was eight months pregnant when Yklas was arrested. A teenaged son and daughter are finding it especially difficult to cope with Yklas’ imprisonment.
The labour camp where Yklas is imprisoned, 450 km from home, allows one visit every two months, and a 48-hour visit can be arranged once every six months. For the shorter visits, only two adults and one child can visit, making it impossible for the entire family to see him at the same time.
14 August 2015 Yklas was stopped by traffic police and taken to his Astana home, which KNB officers spent several hours searching. They seized literature and arrested him. The same day, the KNB searched the Seventh Day Adventist church Yklas attends.
15 August 2015 A court in Astana ordered that Yklas be held for two months in pre-trial detention. He was held in a detention cell for twelve weeks.
8 October 2015 Yklas’ trial began in Astana’s Saryarka District Court No. 2. He was brought to hearings from the KNB investigation prison in handcuffs, which were unlocked once he had been placed in a cage in the courtroom. The prosecution alleged that Yklas had insulted Islam during discussions with a group of students who had invited him to talk to them at a flat rented by one of them. The prosecution also alleged that he had pressurised subordinates at work to become Christians and beat and dismissed those who refused (no evidence of this was presented).
9 November 2015 At the end of the 16th hearing of the trial, judge Akmaral Isayeva convicted Yklas of “inciting religious discord” and sentenced him to seven years of restricted freedom, to be served at home. She also ordered him to pay €1,800 for the “expert analysis” used to convict him and ordered the destruction of Christian books, audio and video cassettes, CDs, computers and a video camera – all items the KNB had seized during searches on his home, workplace and car. Yklas appealed against the decision.
22 December 2015 The appeal hearing began at Astana City Court, with a further hearing on 25 December. State prosecutor Asylzhan Gabdykaparov also appealed, seeking seven years’ imprisonment in place of the restricted freedom sentence.
28 December 2015 At the final appeal hearing, judge Gulnara Mergenova upheld Yklas’ conviction of “inciting religious hatred” and increased his sentence to two years’ imprisonment in labour camp. After the ruling, KNB officials rearrested Yklas in the courtroom and took him away. The twelve weeks he spent in pre-trial detention will count towards his two-year prison term. Yklas considered appealing to the Supreme Court, but his family feared that the sentence could be increased.
2 October 2017 Yklas was released and went home to his wife and children, including a toddler born a month after Yklas was arrested.
(Forum 18, Voice of the Martyrs)