San Diego Pastor Imprisoned in Russia for Alleged Bribery Charge

Peter Deyneka Russian Ministries, which works to evangelize and mobilize Christian leadership throughout Eurasia, has recently brought to light the plight of Thomas Kang, a pastor from San Diego, Calif., who has been imprisoned in Russia on a bribery charge for the past five months.

The so called "bribe," as referred to by Russian authorities, was actually a $30 donation he provided along with a fully-paid fine, according to Peter Deyneka Russian Ministries.

Kang, a Korean-born, naturalized U.S. citizen, has reportedly been living in Russia for the past nine years, building the "House of Joy," a large home meant to serve as a retreat destination for low-income families of soldiers, as well as a place for Christian worship.

Kang, who was formerly a military chaplain, was called to the country's local immigration office days before the opening of his "House of Joy" in September 2012.

Kang had unknowingly hired a Ukrainian worker whose visa expired days before, and was ordered by authorities to pay a 2,000 rubles ($65) fine, which Kang agreed to.

The authorities reportedly then spent hours accusing Kang of a series of vague violations with threatening punishments, and Kang soon realized that the authorities were attempting to extort a bribe from him, a practice common among Russian authority, according to PDRM.

Kang then paid his fine and added an extra amount as a "thank you" to police. He was promptly arrested and charged with attempted bribery.

Those familiar with Russia's persecution of Christian minorities recognize that Kang had been tricked into being arrested by Russian authorities.

"Why is such a simple matter taking so long to resolve? Is it specifically to keep him from opening 'House of Joy' for Christian worship, or a more subtle attack of Satan against this devoted man of God?" questioned Russian Ministries on its official website.

Wade Kusack, project manager for Religious Freedom Issues in Eurasia at PDRM, told The Christian Post that in Russia, government officials often have permission to do whatever they please with religious minorities.

"Government officials can basically do whatever they want towards minorities," Kusack told CP, adding that officials who are unfairly imprisoning minorities "usually go unpunished."

Kusack referenced a 2010 example of a Pentecostal church in the Cossack village of Veshenskaia which was denied a building permit because it was deemed "morally corrupt."

Kusack maintains optimism, however, that Kang will be freed, as he and Kang's daughter, Beverly Chan, recently had a "promising" meeting with the senior policy adviser for the Russian ambassador to the U.S. in Washington, D.C.

"I think we found understanding in this meeting. I believe the Russian Embassy will make all the effort possible to free Mr. Kang from prison," Kusack told CP.

Kusack added that he believes the Russian government will most likely reduce Kang's punishment and use the time he has already served in prison as credit toward his sentence.

Additionally, upon Kang's release, the pastor will have a "criminal record," and will therefore not receive a visa and will be sent back to the U.S.

"I believe the decision of the court to give Kang a minimum sentence and send him back to the United States will be good for him and his family," Kusack told CP.

According to Kusack, Kang's lawyers indicate that his trial regarding the attempted bribery charge will likely begin in early March.

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