A Seventh-day Adventist in Kazakhstan could face between five and 10 years in prison if convicted of “spreading religious discord”.
Yklas Kabduakasov, 54, was arrested in August, after a year of police surveillance and the secret filming of a conversation between him and four Muslim students. His trial began in Astana, the Kazakh capital, on 8 October.
He is alleged to have called for a “war against Muslims” and “publicly and more than once conducted deliberate actions directed at inciting religious discord and inciting the religious feelings of individuals”. He denies the accusations.
A church member told Forum 18: “Yklas played the dombra [a stringed instrument] and sang, and answered questions about his faith. There was no incitement and no pressure.”
Kabduakasov has eight children, the youngest of whom was born while he was in detention.
Kazakhstan is 42nd on Open Doors International’s World Watch List, which ranks the 50 countries in which it is most difficult to live as a Christian.
Christians suffer discrimination and restrictions from repressive regimes across Central Asia, as World Watch Monitor reported in June.
“The regimes want to stay in power at any cost. Communism as an ideology is dead. Now it is a simple question of staying in power,” said Rolf Zeegers, an analyst for Open Doors International.