Kyrgyzstan church leader in custody as authorities take apparent revenge for church’s court victory

On 6 October, a church leader in Kyrgyzstan, Marat Nizalyiev (a citizen of the Russian Federation), was taken into custody as police investigations into false allegations of sexual misconduct took a sinister twist. Originally falsely charged with indecent assault, while he was under suspicion he was not allowed to work or to leave the town of Kemin. However, now the charge has been changed to one of the attempted rape of an eight-year-old girl. In view of the seriousness of the charge Marat has been taken into custody – despite the fact that his lawyer has proof of his innocence. Local churches are helping to support them.

Marat Nizalyiev pictured with his family
Marat Nizalyiev pictured with his family

Marat Niyazaliev started a small home church in 2011 which now has 40 members, all from a Muslim background. By 2014, local Muslim leaders were making complaints about it to different local and state government bodies. Marat found himself and his family coming under increasing pressure from the authorities. It is this pressure which has resulted in the false accusations being levelled at him.

In spring 2015, the KGB closed Marat’s home church without any official mandate, an illegal act against which the church appealed. On 3 March 2016, the court ruled that only the State Committee on Religious Affairs could close the church, and so decided the case in the church’s favour. Those opposed to the church resented this outcome.

On the afternoon of 8 December 2015 Marat was taken to the local police station where he was told that he was accused of indecent assault on a girl, a case from September that had gone unsolved. He thought the accusation was ridiculous, but the police showed him the statement written by the girl’s mother (which she has since tried in vain to withdraw). While the police tried to make a case against him, which has proved difficult, Marat was not held in custody but had no work permit and could not leave town.

However, that changed when the charge of indecent assault was changed to attempted rape, and Marat was taken into custody on 6 October. Barnabas Fund is helping the family at this very difficult time for them, including help with Marat’s legal costs. When Marat spoke to Barnabas Fund’s representative in the region, he asked that his case be publicised at every official level.

Marat’s lawyer is concerned that the statements of witnesses as to Marat’s innocence have disappeared from the case. She has asked for prayer that these witnesses have not withdrawn their testimony under pressure from the police.

Marat believes the pressure is being applied to make him abandon the home church and leave the country to return to Russia. He and his family are determined to stay. He has asked for prayer, especially for the older children as they come under pressure at school because of Marat’s situation.

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