Tashkent (AsiaNews) – The Andijan court yesterday condemned Protestant Pastor Dmitry Shestakov to 4 years confinement for his religious activities. Meanwhile across the country persecution of Christians is on the increase, they are registered threatened and put on trial. Forum 18 agency reports that Shestakov was accused of “illegally organising religious groups”, “inciting ethnic, racial or religious hatred” and “distributing materials containing ideas of religious extremism”.
According to local sources, the proof used against him consists of two religious sermons recorded in June 2006, by a professor at Andijan University, and for having carried out religious services for the Full Gospel Church, an authorized religious organization. Forum 18 points out however that the pastor has been operative in the country for quite some time and that the charges were only laid against him following his conversion of entire families to Christianity.
During the trial Shestakov was not assisted by his defence lawyer, taken ill, but by a state lawyer. National media repeatedly reported the pastor and his followers to be drug and alcohol addicts as well as religious fanatics. The location where Shestakov - in prison since January 21 – will spend his confinement term is unknown.
Meanwhile secret police operations against Christian communities continue. On February 25 that about ten police secret police officers armed with video-cameras raided a Pentecostal church's Sunday worship service in the southern city of Karshi. After the congregation finished the service, secret police officers began interrogating them to reveal why they had become Christians and where the church received its money. Police also searched all the rooms and seized Christian literature and audio and video recordings. The Pentecostal Church has been seeking registration for over 7 years, but it still has not been granted; for this reason its activities are judged “illegal”. Only the Islamic and Christian Orthodox faiths are permitted in the region, the protestant communions are still deemed illegal. (PB)