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A Protestant pastor in Kazakhstan’s capital city of Astana has been imprisoned.

According to a story by Felix Corley for Forum 18 News Service, Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev faces criminal charges of harming health. On May 19 he was ordered held for two months pre-trial detention.

Kazakhstan is in Central Asia, with its smaller part west of the Ural River in Eastern Europe.Kashkumbayev, who leads Grace Church in Astana, was arrested on May 17, church members told Forum 18. Astana Police told the local media on May 18 that Kashkumbayev was taken to the city’s Temporary Isolation Prison.Forum 18 said police added that Kashkumbayev’s charges carry a punishment of restrictions on freedom, or imprisonment of between three and seven years.

They said the criminal case had been opened in Oct. 2012 “for causing considerable harm to the psychological health” of a church member.In Oct. 2012, Forum 18 reported, after raiding the church, detaining and questioning members, and taking literature and money, police told the local media that the alleged “harm” was caused by church members being “given hallucinogens to drink.” Forum 18 said the alleged “hallucinogens” were local red tea used as a non-alcoholic communion wine.

Jeremy ReynaldsForum 18 added that police questioning at that time ranged far beyond the alleged “harm” they were reportedly investigating.Forum 18 said prosecutors have long been seeking to punish the leaders of Grace Church, but their reasoning remains unclear. In addition, Forum 18 reported, Baptist leader Aleksei Asetov was jailed for three days in early May, for refusing to pay a fine equivalent to 18 months’ average local wages. The fine was levied for meeting for worship without state permission. He told Forum 18 he will not pay the fine, as he should not be punished for meeting for worship with his friends.

In other news, imprisoned atheist writer Aleksandr Kharlamov remains under investigation in a psychiatric hospital in the commercial capital of Almaty.Forum 18 reported that Yevgeni Zhovtis of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law said “the case is even more urgent as the man is not only in pre-trial detention, but now undergoing forcible psychiatric examination.”For more information about Forum 18, go to www.forum18.org

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