02/12/2010, 00.00
UZBEKISTAN
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Baptist falsely accused of selling drugs

Believers fear police might be targeting their community. Not recognised by the state, Baptists are systematically persecuted, so are some Muslim groups.
Tashkent (AsiaNews/F18) – Christians are being arrested and put on trial on trumped up charges. Tohar Haydarov is Baptist. Fellow Baptists said, “Police planted a matchbox with drugs” on him; he was “beaten and forced by the police to sign different papers.”

Arrested in the central Syrdarya region on 18 January, he was taken to his flat where police took his keys to get in and conduct a search. The latter was done in his absence. Police then claimed they found a plastic bag with marijuana on the premises.

The man is now charged with “illegal production, purchase, storage and other operation with narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances without the purpose of selling”, a crime punishable with up to five years in prison.

Members of Haydarov’s congregation are adamant that he would never sell drugs; they claim instead that the evidence was fabricated.

The Baptist Council of Churches rejects state registration in all the former Soviet republics where they operate. They insist that they have the right to meet for worship without registration.

Elsewhere, in Almalyk City (Tashkent Region), police broke into the home of another Baptist, Sergei Brislavski, where members of the local Baptist community were drinking tea. All 19 people present were arrested.  On their way to the police station, they were beaten. Eventually some were detained. They too fear they might be prosecuted under the existing religious law, which bans teaching religion.

Christians are not the only ones suffering. Police is also cracking down on Muslims who want to operate outside state recognised groups.

In Syrdarya, 57 Muslims were held for unspecified reasons. In Kashkadarya, a woman has been held in custody since 16 January for hosting a religious meeting in her house.

Uzbek authorities have rejected all such allegations, but they have also refused Forum 18’s requests to talk about them.

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