A court in Astana, capital of Kazakhstan, raised the sentence given to Yklas Kabduakasov, a convert from Islam, from seven years of restricted freedom to two years at a prison labour camp when he appealed against the original decision.
The father-of-eight was arrested on 14 August 2015, accused of inciting religious hatred. He was convicted on 9 November and allowed to go home to begin his seven years of restricted freedom. Nine of his books were confiscated and destroyed.
Yklas Kabduakasov denies the charges against him and appealed for his acquittal. The Prosecution also filed an appeal against the sentence; they wanted to change it to seven years’ imprisonment instead of seven years of restricted freedom.
At his appeal hearing on 28 December, Mr Kabduakasov was re-arrested after the judge increased his sentence to two years at a prison labour camp. The twelve weeks that he spent in prison before the judge’s sentence will count towards his two-year term.
According to news agency Forum 18, it appears that the secret police rented an apartment to which four university students regularly invited him for discussions about religion. The police secretly recorded these discussions with hidden cameras and used the footage as evidence in the prosecution case.
Local Christians believe the real reason behind the arrest of Yklas Kabduakasov is his conversion from Islam to Christianity and the fact that he was speaking to Muslims about his Christian faith.
In Kazakhstan, a new Religion Law passed in 2011 said that all religious institutions must officially re-register with the state, but it also placed greater restrictions for obtaining registration. The law also forbids citizens from sharing their faith with others and operates strict censorship on all religious literature.