Yuri Pak, a teacher, dean of a high school and a local church leader in Kazakhstan was sentenced to two years in prison, after being convicted of making a false emergency-services call.
On April 14, 2015, someone (likely a student, since Yuri left his phone in a classroom) used Yuri Pak’s cellphone to make a prank phone call to Kazakhstan’s emergency services. The emergency-services call recordings show that the call was six seconds long.
However, authorities were quick to charge Yuri with making a bomb threat in that call and arrested him. During the trial, the “evidence” used against him was a two-minute-long recording of a man, obviously drunk, and using rough prison jargon. Expert witnesses testified that the caller’s voice does not match Yuri’s voice. Additionally, the caller references spending 10 years in prison and being angry at police, but Yuri Pak has never been in prison.
As a testimony to his character, Yuri’s students came to his Oct. 3, 2016 trial to support him. His pastor also wrote a letter of support. Various local news stations reported on the spurious trial, but even with all that support, he was sentenced to two years in prison, apparently in retaliation against his involvement in a Christian church.
The church in which Yuri was a lay leader has services in both Russian, the official business language inherited from when Kazakhstan was part of the Soviet Union, and Kazakh, the majority language. Preaching Christianity in Kazak is viewed as trying to convert local Muslims.
Yuri has a wife and two children. As he is currently in a pretrial detention center (where he can’t receive mail), letters will go to his family.