Uzbek pastor released from Kazakhstan, in hiding

By December 7, 2012

Uzbekistan (MNN) — According to Open Doors USA, Uzbek pastor Makset Djabbarbergenov has been released from prison in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

He was reunited with his wife and four children when he was released on Tuesday and immediately taken to the airport. According to Forum 18, they were flown to Germany. After their arrival in Frankfurt, the family was taken to a safe location in an unnamed European country.

Makset's friends told Forum 18, "We need to thank the Kazakh government; they did the right thing."

The pastor was told by border guards that he was banned from re-entering Kazakhstan until 2017.

Pastor Makset's release and asylum in Europe was facilitated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Commissioner representatives met him on release from prison and took him directly to the airport. They were ensuring that there were no last minute problems.

Almost 3,800 supporters sent e-mails on behalf of Makset through an advocacy campaign by Open Doors.

Open Doors Advocacy Director Lindsay Vessey said, "We are incredibly grateful for Makset's release and thank all our supporters who advocated on his behalf by sending e-mails to the Kazakh ambassador to the United States."

"It is good to hear that the UNHCR played a critical role in securing his release as well as in ensuring Makset's safe departure from Kazakhstan with his family," she said.

Pastor Makset was arrested in Almaty on September 5 on the request of his native Uzbekistan. They wanted him to be returned to face charges that he practices religion outside state regulation.

He became a Christian in 2000 and soon became an active church leader in Nukus, the capital of Karakalpakstan. There is no Protestant church in Karakalpakstan that has an official registration, as they are considered illegal.

Pastor Makset was arrested six times. Following a police raid on his apartment in 2007, he and his family fled to Tashkent, the Uzbek capitol. He then crossed into Kazakhstan the following month. His family followed a few months later, according to Open Doors News.

He applied for asylum in Kazakhstan. Despite the fact that the commissioner for refugees said he would face prosecution in Uzbekistan because of his Christian faith, the Kazakh government ruled against Makset at several turns. Finally he was arrested in September and held in prison, pending deportation.

His wife, Aigul, spoke to Open Doors during that time. "Pray that we can follow God, and He'll lead us to be where He wants us to be. We want Him to solve and resolve the situation and tell us what to do."

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