05/25/2013, 00.00
UZBEKISTAN

Uzbek Christian convicted of possessing Bibles and religious material

Sentenced to 18 months "corrective" work and part of his salary paid to the State as a fine. The fear is that he will be sent to cotton fields for harvest, exhausting work. In the capital, a group of believers punished with "heavy fines" for having met in a home to read "Christian material."

Tashkent (AsiaNews/F18) - The Uzbek authorities have sentenced a Protestant Christian in Urgench, in the northwest of the country to 18 months of "corrective labor", charged with "illegal production, storage, importation or distribution of religious materials." The judge Makhmud Makhmudov ruled that the woman should carry out menial jobs at the complete service of the state, while a good part of her salary be handed over as payment of a fine. In addition, for the next few months she can only travel within the state.

In a second incident of violation of religious freedom, a group of people in the capital were sentenced to heavy fines for "gathering" to pray and read Christian material (a Bible) in a private home.

Local sources said that the secret police artfully assembled fake evidence to nail Sharofat Allamova, who was then convicted in a sham trial. The possession of religious materials is strictly controlled by the State, with a heavy censorship of the Committee for Religious Affairs, which often targets the Christian minority.

The double raid on the private home took place in January and the court only ruled on the case recently, in accordance with Article 244-3 of the Criminal Code. Already in May 2012 she had suffered similar punishment, again for possession of religious materials. In addition to the confiscation of the Bible and other texts, the biggest fear is that the woman can be shipped to the cotton fields for the autumn harvest. As repeatedly denounced by organizations and activists, the state uses the work of minors and convicts for the grueling task.

88% of the Uzbek population is of the Sunni Muslim faith while Christians make up 8%. In the country, confessional freedom is subject limited by the government. The annual report of the U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom, published on April 30, under the heading "Countries subject of particular attention" included a list of 15 governments including that of Tashkent.

 

 

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