07ASTANA2718, KAZAKHSTAN: CONFUSION SURROUNDS TREASON INVESTIGATION OF

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07ASTANA2718 2007-09-28 10:15 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO0749
PP RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #2718/01 2711015
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 281015Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0830
INFO RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 0264
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 1829

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ASTANA 002718 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR SCA/CEN (M. O'MARA) 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PREL KDEM KZ
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN: CONFUSION SURROUNDS TREASON INVESTIGATION OF 
GRACE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH LEADERS 
 
ASTANA 00002718  001.2 OF 003 
 
 
1. (SBU) Summary: On August 24, Committee for National Security 
(KNB) agents raided the headquarters of the Grace Presbyterian 
Church in Karaganda, a Grace Church in Ust Kamenogorsk, and several 
church-owned private homes in Karaganda, seizing documents and 
computers and questioning church officials.  The raid was part of a 
treason investigation involving the head of the church and several 
of his family members, as well as an Almaty businessman previously 
detained on treason charges.  The Government of Kazakhstan has 
released few details about the investigation, and has forbidden 
those under investigation from discussing the case.  On September 
17, Karaganda regional procurators announced that investigators 
found illegal drugs, evidence of fraudulent property transfers, and 
materials that promote the superiority of one faith over another and 
instigate inter-faith discord.  However, observers reported that 
these findings actually come from a completely unrelated 
investigation in Karaganda.  So far, church officials have not been 
formally arrested or charged and the churches are able to hold 
services, though KNB investigators continue to question church 
leaders and congregation members. End summary. 
 
 
------------------------------------- 
KNB RAIDS GRACE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCHES 
------------------------------------- 
 
2. (U) On August 24, KNB agents conducted a surprise 15-hour raid of 
the Grace Presbyterian Church headquarters in the central 
Kazakhstani city of Karaganda.  On the same day, KNB agents also 
raided three church-owned private homes in Karaganda, and another 
Grace Church in the eastern Kazakhstani city of Ust Kamenogorsk. 
During the raid, agents searched the entire premises, forbade anyone 
from entering or leaving, and required those present to write 
statements.  The agents also seized computers, church literature, 
documents, and accounting records. Following the raid, authorities 
summoned Archbishop Igor Kim, leader of the church for all of 
Kazakhstan, for further questioning. 
 
3. (SBU) Details of the raid were first reported by the Forum 18 
news service; Post confirmed details by speaking to a church 
official and Aleksandr Klyushev, chairman of the Association of 
Religious Organizations of Kazakhstan.  Post's regular contacts in 
the Religious Issues Committee of the Ministry of Justice knew 
nothing of the investigation.  The case has received very little 
media coverage, and KNB officials have thus far refused to comment 
on the investigation. 
 
--------------------------------------- 
RAID CONNECTED TO TREASON INVESTIGATION 
--------------------------------------- 
 
4. (SBU) According to Klyushev and church members present during the 
raid, the authorities told church officials that the investigation 
is part of a treason investigation, apparently targeting Archbishop 
Kim, his sister, a church administrator, and the senior pastor of 
the church in Ust-Kamenogorsk, who is Kim's relative. Klyushev and 
church members were surprised by the allegations of treason, and had 
no information about the possible basis for any treason charge. 
Archbishop Kim and the others under investigation were instructed 
not to discuss the case publicly. Church members also reported that 
all Grace Church affiliates are now facing a tax investigation. 
 
5. (SBU) Klyushev said the investigation is connected to an Almaty 
businessman previously detained on treason charges.  According to 
some of the few press articles to appear on the investigation, the 
businessman is Sergei Tsoi. Tsoi is the owner of Kaztranscom 
Service, a construction company, and he allegedly defrauded 
investors in a large residential construction project in Almaty. 
Tsoi is currently in a pre-trial detention facility in Almaty. 
 
SIPDIS 
Klyushev and the press reports indicated that Tsoi allegedly made 
several large financial donations to the Grace Church. Klyushev was 
initially restrained in his public comments on the investigation, 
explaining that it appeared to be a financial investigation related 
to Tsoi rather then a case of religious persecution. 
 
--------------------------------------- 
LOCAL PROCURATORS CONFUSE THE SITUATION 
--------------------------------------- 
 
6. (SBU) In a strange development, however, the Karaganda regional 
procurators' office released a statement on September 17 concerning 
the Grace Church investigation.  The statement announced that 
authorities were investigating the presence of heavy psychotropic 
drugs at the church, several suspicious property transfers, and the 
presence of materials promoting the superiority of one faith over 
another and instigating inter-faith discord.  In response to 
complaints by church members and the local Kazakhstan International 
Human Rights Bureau affiliate that investigators had committed 
 
ASTANA 000
02718  002.2 OF 003 
 
 
procedural violations during their search and seizure, the statement 
said that procurators had reviewed the investigation and found no 
violations, and warned church members not to interfere.  The 
statement did not reference the treason aspect of the 
investigation. 
 
7. (SBU) According to Klyushev, the facts discussed by the 
procurators actually relate to an investigation at the Karaganda 
House for Old People, a home for the elderly affiliated with the 
Union of Baptist Churches and unrelated to the Grace Church. 
Vyacheslav Zhuravlev, vice president of the Union of Baptist 
Churches of Kazakhstan, confirmed that investigators had indeed 
found drugs in the home that were used to treat an elderly resident, 
and that the director of the home had made some mistakes in 
transferring some property.  He said that procurators were mistaken 
in attributing these problems to the Grace Church, though he said 
that the Grace Church was one of many churches providing financial 
support to the home.  Klyushev speculated that procurators 
deliberately linked the negative results of that investigation with 
the Grace Church in order to deflect criticism of the Grace Church 
investigation and erode public sympathy for the Grace Church. 
 
------------------------------------ 
SO FAR, NO ARRESTS OR FORMAL CHARGES 
------------------------------------ 
 
8. (SBU) Authorities thus far have not revealed the basis for any 
treason investigation, and have not formally arrested or charged Kim 
or any church officials. Both of the churches that were raided 
continue to hold regular Sunday services, though church officials 
report that their operations have been hindered by the seizure of 
their computers and other materials.  In addition, KNB officers 
continued to question church officials and congregation members 
about all aspects of the church and its operations. 
 
------------------------------ 
BACKGROUND ON THE GRACE CHURCH 
------------------------------ 
 
9. (SBU) In the past, KNB officials have publicly criticized the 
Grace Church. On September 15, 2006, the deputy chief commander of 
the KNB Counter-Terrorism Center made a public statement in support 
of legislation to ban destructive sects and organizations like 
Scientologists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Grace Church. 
 
10. (SBU) In April, Poloff visited the Grace Church headquarters in 
Karaganda and met with Archbishop Kim and his staff.  The Grace 
Church is a protestant, evangelical Christian denomination.  The 
first church was founded in Karaganda in 1991 by Korean-American 
missionary Joseph Yu, and the denomination in Kazakhstan has grown 
to just over 200 churches with approximately 12,000 regular 
attenders.  (Note: After 14 years of living in Kazakhstan, the 
government denied Yu reentry into the country in 2005 for 
unspecified reasons.  End note.) 
 
11. (SBU) The church in Karaganda, with an attendance of 3000 every 
week, is the largest Grace Church and the second largest church in 
Kazakhstan.  In many respects, the church building and separate 
headquarters facility resemble the operations of an American 
mega-church, with offices, classrooms, kitchen facilities, modern 
audiovisual, recording, and lighting equipment in the main 
sanctuary, and warehouse facilities for distribution of food and 
clothing to the needy. In addition, Grace Church sends missionaries 
throughout the former Soviet Union, and operates a seminary in 
Kazakhstan with 44 students and 50 interns. 
 
12. (SBU) Kim said that the Grace Church is openly evangelistic, and 
Poloff noted several signs and posters in the main sanctuary 
encouraging the congregation to witness to their friends and 
neighbors and grow the number of Christians in Kazakhstan. Kim 
repeatedly praised President Nazarbayev and his policies, and said 
that the church prays for him every day during their morning prayer 
service. Nevertheless, Kim said that church affiliates occasionally 
encounter registration problems in different regions of the country. 
 He also said that at least one of his staff members was an 
informant for law enforcement officials.  He said the church was not 
bothered by the informant, because they had nothing to hide.  At the 
time, Kim was optimistic about life in Kazakhstan and the future of 
the church, and was confident that God would protect them no matter 
what the government does. 
 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
13. (SBU) Comment: The true nature of the case against Grace Church 
remains uncertain, though it is clear the investigation is 
 
ASTANA 00002718  003.2 OF 003 
 
 
proceeding very thoroughly and carries potentially very serious 
ramifications for the church and its leadership.  Post will continue 
to monitor the situation carefully, particularly given past KNB 
comments about the church.  End comment. 
 
 
MILAS

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