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Kazakh Court Drops Extremism Charges Against Pastor

Bakhytzhan/Bahtzhan Kashkumbaev, a Christian Presbyterian Church pastor, in the courtroom in Astana on January 22.
ASTANA -- A court in Astana has dropped extremism charges against a Kazakh Presbyterian pastor, Bakhytzhan Kashkumbaev.

Kashkumbaev's lawyer, Nurlan Beisekeev, told RFE/RL on January 24 that although the court's decision is good news it was made illegally, since he was not present at the hearing.

Beisekeev said he left the court building on January 22 after the judge adjourned the trial until January 31.

However, he said the judge resumed the hearing later in the day, despite Kashkumbaev's refusal to participate without legal counsel.

Beisekeev said the judge dropped the extremism charges but maintained a charge of "inflicting damages" on a parishioner through his sermons.

Kashkumbaev, 67, was arrested in May 2013.

He and his supporters insist the case against him is politically motivated.

Kazakh and international human rights organizations have urged authorities to release him.
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