Jailed Pastor Faces Extradition to Uzbekistan
Makset Djabbarbergenov, 32, arrested on September 5th in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s financial center and largest city, is languishing in jail while awaiting the decision of Kazakhstan’s Supreme Court. The court is considering whether to declare him a refugee, or send him back to Uzbekistan, where he will face almost-certain persecution.
Pastor Makset has suffered much for his faith, but this incarceration and possible extradition has been a difficult cross for him to bear. Speaking from his jail cell, he told a friend he was too disturbed to eat during the first few days of his incarceration. The friend reports that at first Makset said he told God he did not want this cross. But he is doing a bit better now saying that he said, “I pray that if this is from you, Lord, I will accept whatever you say. Just help me carry it.”
Born in Uzbekistan in the small town of Symbai, Makset gave his life to Christ in 2000. Soon after that he became an active house church leader in Nukus, the capital of Karakalpakstan, an autonomous republic in Uzbekistan where it is illegal to worship as a Protestant Christian. And because there are no “officially” registered Protestant churches in Karakalpakstan, he decided to start one.
In August 2007, police raided the family’s apartment, prompting Makset and his wife, Aigul, then pregnant with their third child, to flee to the Uzbek capital, Tashkent. The following month he crossed the border into Kazakhstan, followed later by his family. The young couple has been living in Kazakhstan since then with their now four children (and another expected soon).
Their time in Kazakhstan has been spent seeking asylum, but while the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) determined the family to be refugees who would face prosecution in Uzbekistan because of their Christian faith, the Kazakh government disagreed and has ruled against Makset.
The Norwegian religious-freedom watchdog agency Forum 18 reported that Kazakh investigators went so far as to hold his sister-in-law for two weeks in an attempt to flush him out. From her cell phone they obtained the phone number of Aigul and tracked down the location of the family’s home, where they arrested him on September 5, the day of his youngest son’s 2nd birthday.
His case now rests before the country’s highest court, which has yet to set a hearing date. Even as Makset’s refugee status hangs in the balance, prosecutors have moved ahead in response to Uzbekistan’s request to return him to face charges. The two charges awaiting him in Uzbekistan each carry a maximum penalty of three years in prison.
Pastor Makset and his pregnant wife and four children, distraught over what will happen next, have asked for our prayers.
Father, during this difficult time in his life we ask that You bring comfort to Pastor Makset. Let peace wash over him so that he might have the strength to remain faithful to You, no matter what the cost. We pray for peace, protection and provision for his wife Aigul and their children, and for the safe arrival of their unborn child. We pray for Your Spirit to overrule in Makset Djabbarbergenov’s case that with justice and mercy he would be swiftly released. In the name of Jesus who carries the scepter of justice, Amen.