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For 90 days last fall, Makset Djabbarbergenov lived in a Kazakh prison cell, under threat of deportation to his native Uzbekistan to face almost-certain years of harsh jail time.
His alleged crime: Leading small Christian communities in house churches without official registration. By 2007, this had made “Pastor Makset” a wanted criminal, and he fled across the border into Kazakhstan to escape arrest. By 2009, he and his family had won refugee status there from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR. So far, Kazakhstan has refused to recognize the family’s refugee status.
Last year, Uzbekistan bumped up the convert pastor’s “criminal accusations” to charges of terrorism, and demanded the Kazakh government send him back home to face trial and a potential 15-year prison sentence.
His pregnant wife, Aygul, and their four young sons were left watching wide-eyed as the Kazakh police arrested him in their Almaty home at noon on Sept. 5. It would be three months before they saw each other again.
In late December, a few weeks after they had flown to safety and a new life in Europe, they told the story of their family’s faith ordeal in a series of interviews with World Watch Monitor. Their location is being withheld to preserve their security.
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