By Worthy News Europe Bureau in Budapest
ASTANA/BUDAPEST (Worthy News)-- A Kazakh-born Christian leader who holds a German passport was preparing for deportation from Kazakhstan Tuesday, December 1, after local officials reportedly objected to a worship service.
International rights group Forum 18, which is in contact with Kazakh Christians, said authorities wanted to "punish" Viktor Leven for leading a worship service of a Council of Churches Baptist congregation in Akmola Region.
"On 26 November, the collegium of the Regional Court reinstated the initial court decision that he had successfully overturned on appeal," Forum 18 said. "I could now be deported at any time," Leven added in a statement distributed by the Forum 18 News Service.
Deportation would separate him from his wife and their six children, the youngest just three weeks old, Christians said.
The case came as local papers reportedly reproduced a hostile article by state-funded "anti-cult" activist Gulnara Orazbaeva, accusing Baptists of spreading the
H1N1 virus. In addition local media claimed Leven's brother David caused the death of one of his children “because of his faith” and accused Baptists of not reading newspapers or watching television.
Media also said material supporting the claims was provided by the KNB secret police, but the organization denied it, Forum 18 said.
The incident is the latest in a series of reported government-backed efforts to crackdown on active Christians in the former Soviet republic, covering a territory equivalent to the whole of Western Europe. Several Baptist and other churches and groups have been raided by police, Kazakh Christians have been dismissed from jobs and missionaries deported from the country in recent months, Christians say.
The crackdown has been linked to the autocratic style of President returned Nursultan. Nazarbayev. Autocratic governments often view Christian groups as a threat to their power base, according to Christians and rights groups
The president was elected for a further seven-year term in 2005 with more than 90 percent of the votes, official results claimed.
However the opposition protested the ballot had been rigged and observers of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) declared the ballot to have been “seriously flawed”.