Officials to return Uzbek pastor, a religious refugee since 2007

By September 11, 2012

Kazakhstan (MNN) — According to the Forum 18 News Service, officials are sending Pastor Makset Djabbarbergenov and his family back to neighboring Uzbekistan, the nation they fled to escape religious persecution. Forum 18 says Uzbek authorities put the Protestant pastor on a wanted list for illegal teaching of religion and literature distribution, religious "crimes" he had committed in 2007.

The charges against Djabbarbergenov each carries a maximum of three years' imprisonment. Pray for the pastor and his family as they endure this persecution. The Djabbarbergenovs are expecting their fifth child in April. Pray that their faith remains steadfast.

An assistant working in the District Prosecutor's Office told Forum 18 that "Uzbek authorities are seeking to imprison Djabbarbergenov because he led an unregistered Protestant church in his home town.

"As a person, I can say this is not right," he added. "But we have to follow the rules. We just collect the documentation."

Kazakhstan has a reputation for returning religious refugees in order to maintain political favor with China and Uzbekistan. Forum 18 points out that in June, the United Nations Committee against Torture (CAT) criticized Kazakhstan for extraditing 29 Uzbek Muslim refugees in 2011. Though the men sought asylum and religious refuge, Kazak officials accused them of being terrorists and sent them back to Uzbekistan, where intense persecution is routine.

Uzbekistan has steadily moved higher on Open Doors USA's World Watch List, a compilation of the world's most heavily-persecuted nations. The Central Asia nation ranked #10 on the list two years ago but has since moved to #7 following increased governmental suspicion, police attacks, and raids. Common cruelty used by Uzbek authorities includes electric shock, beatings, rape, asphyxiation, and psychological abuse.

A report issued earlier this month from the human rights group International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) says religious persecution is to be expected from Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member nations. Created in 2001, the SCO includes Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikstan and Uzbekistan. The FIDH says the Shanghai convention is used as a "vehicle for human rights violations," because members are expected to accept any accusations made by another SCO member, no questions asked.

Richard Wild, a law professor who worked on the FIDH report, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that member states essentially use the SCO as front to hide human rights violations.

"The threat in terms of human rights comes from the SCO because, on the one hand, it is playing the international game of speaking a human rights language — using 'human rights' within their charter," said Wild. "At the same time, it actually results in a coordinated regional form of extradition on the basis of suspicion rather than evidence.

"And it lacks any kind of transparency or international oversight."

Continue praying for persecuted believers in Central Asia. Pray for Pastor Djabbarbergenov, his wife Aigul, their four boys and unborn child.

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