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Jehovah's Witness Faces Hate Charges In Kazakhstan

Jehovah's Witness adherent Teimur Akhmedov (left) and his lawyers Nataly Kononenko (center) and Vitaly Kuznetsov in an Astana courtroom on March 27.

ASTANA -- Preliminary hearings were held in the trial of a Jehovah's Witness charged with inciting interethnic enmity on March 27 in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana.

Teimur Akhmedov, 60, was arrested in January for what the Committee for National Security (KNB) said propagating ideas that "disrupt interreligious and interethnic concord" in the country.

Akhmedov pleaded not guilty.

His lawyers, Natalya Kononenko and Vitaly Kuznetsov, requested that the judge release their client while the trial is held because he is undergoing treatment for cancer.

The judge rejected the motion and scheduled the trial to begin on April 6.

If found guilty, Akhmedov faces up to 10 years in prison.

In 2015, a court in Astana sentenced an active member of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Yqylas Qabduaqasov, to seven years of restricted freedom, which is similar to a suspended sentence with parole-like restrictions. But a higher court toughened the punishment that December, sentencing him to two years in prison.

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