Photo: Makset Djabbarbergenov with his wife, Aigul, and three sons in 2010. The family now has four boys, and is expecting a fifth child (Open Doors News)
A former Uzbek house church pastor is in prison in Kazakhstan, awaiting a ruling whether he will be returned to his native country, Open Doors News reports. Meanwhile, Kazakhstan’s Supreme Court considers whether to declare him a refugee in the face of almost-certain persecution. Makset Djabbarbergenov was arrested Sept. 5 in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s financial center. He was detained by authorities who have frowned on his leadership in unregistered Christian communities. Djabbarbergenov was at one point an active church leader in Nukus, the capital of Karakalpakstan, the autonomous republic of Uzbekistan. At present, Protestant churches in Karakalpakstan are illegal. After appearing before court six different times, Djabbarbergenov and his family fled to Kazakhstan in 2007, where they are considered refugees by the United Nations, although the Kazakh government disagrees. Uzbekistan now wants him back to face charges that he practiced religion outside state regulation. He faces two charges; each carry a maximum penalty of three years in prison. Uzbekistan is ranked No. 7 on the World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.