06/14/2012, 00.00
UZBEKISTAN

Tashkent, Uzbekistan Jehovah's Witness risk expulsion

The woman forced to abandon her mother, ill and in need of care, on alleged irregularities relating to citizenship. In reality it’s because of their faith. In the past year they have been sentenced twice to heavy fines. Christian Baptist also targeted by the authorities.

Tashkent (AsiaNews/F18) - The Uzbekistani authorities threatened to deport a 37 year-old Jehovah's Witness and her two children, for violating the law on citizenship and immigration. Human rights activists and members of civil society, questioned by Forum 18, however, argue that behind the expulsion is the religion professed by the woman. Because of her faith, in 2011 Yelena Tsyngalova suffered two sentences to heavy fines which had an (huge) impact on the family budget. Meanwhile, Christian sources reveal the Central Asian country will open an investigation against a young Christian, for an alleged "illegal crossing" of the border to renew his passport.

Yelena Tsyngalova was born and raised in Uzbekistan, along with her two sons of 18 and 13 years, except for a brief period from 1995 to 1996 in Russia where she lived with her ex-husband. The woman has acquired Russian-Uzbekistani dual nationalities, a fact not permitted by the authorities in Tashkent. For the government the "permit" is irregular and she should be "deported" to Russia, where, however, she has no relatives or friends. To make matters worse, the fact that she must abandon her mother - very old and sick - in the Uzbekistan capital, without anyone to take care of her. Although tickets for a Tuesday 12 June expulsion have been withdrawn, officials subsequently stated she will still be deported and this will not be delayed.

In fact, according to acquaintances and activists behind the order is groundless and is solely based on her religion. Membership in the community of Jehovah's Witnesses in the past has created several problems for her and she has been convicted twice by local courts. The testimony received by Forum 18 shows that in 2011, on two separate occasions, Yelena Tsyngalova suffered a fine of 2,486,750 Soms - amounting to 1,045 euros, almost 50 times the average wage in Uzbekistan - for the illegal practice of religion. The first time the woman paid, while the second sentence (since there are no goods or precious to be placed under seizure) it was reduced to 21 Euro. A faithful stresses that Yelena "has paid the fine and thought that the matter was closed" in May, however, government authorities have notified her of the deportation order.

In a case related to alleged irregularities in a trip abroad, which emerged during a passport renewal, the 25 year old Uzbekistan Baptist Christian Tereza Rusanova - who has lived in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek for three years  - risks prosecution and a prison sentence . The trial should begin the end of June. Local sources point out that the border officer who arrested the woman at the time of crossing, in the past had already confiscated Christian religious materials - including Bibles and prayer books - from a believer who was returning to his home country.

The Uzbekistani authorities deny that there are cases of violation of religious freedom in the country. However, to exercise this right each community must ask permission to the State. And the authorities in Tashkent grant concessions to their liking. Among the most affected communities in the recent past, there are Protestant Christians, Catholic groups, Muslims and Jehovah's Witnesses, with targeted trials and convictions (see AsiaNews 11/02/2012 Tashkent, two Jehovah's Witnesses risk 5 more years of hard labor).

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