Kazakhstan pastor

Pastor in Central Asia faces year in prison

NASHVILLE (ABP)—A Baptist pastor in Kazakhstan faces up to a year in prison after refusing to pay a fine equivalent to about two months’ average salary for conducting worship without government permission, the international news service Forum 18 reported.

kazakhstan raid332In this undated photo, Kazakh police arrest a group of young people for an unsanctioned religious meeting. (Image: Christian Aid Mission)Police opened a criminal case Oct. 28 against Pastor Pavel Leonov, who was fined in March following a Feb. 28 raid on his congregation in Ayagoz in the region of East Kazakhstan.

Leonov’s church is part of the Council of Churches Baptists, which has a policy of civil disobedience by refusing to pay fines imposed for meeting for worship without the compulsory state registration.

In August, Leonov told the court he could not pay the fine because he thinks he did nothing wrong and is the sole breadwinner for his wife and five children.

kazakhstan nazarbayev200Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev has come under international pressure to allow more political and religious freedom.Forum 18 says Leonov is one of more than 100 people from various faiths in Kazakhstan fined so far this year for offenses such as leading or participating in religious meetings without state permission, sharing their faith with others without being personally registered as missionaries or distributing religious literature away from licensed venues.

In 2001, Leonov was convicted of failing to uphold a court order requiring his church to register. He also did not pay that fine, but authorities made no effort to collect it. He reportedly was sentenced to a day’s detention in jail in April 2009 after refusing to pay a fine issued for leading unregistered worship.

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