11/19/2009, 00.00
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Uzbek Christians and Muslims are persecuted, arrested and fined

Mekhrinisso Hamdamova was charged with organising an “unauthorised” religious meeting. Thirty more women were arrested and placed in isolation in order to force them to testify against her. In October, the authorities fined 28 Christians for “illegal possession” of religious material.
Tashkent (AsiaNews/Forum18) – Uzbek authorities continue their campaign of repression. Scores of Muslims and Christians have been arrested, subjected to raids or fined amounts up to 50 times the average monthly salary, on charges of “overthrowing the established order” and inciting “religious hatred”.

On 5 November, 12 officials from the National Security Service (NSS) secret police arrested Mekhrinisso Hamdamova, a Muslim women from the town of Karshi, in southeast Uzbekistan.

Police broke into her home at 6 am, searched the premises, and seized two tapes and a book she received in gift from a local Muslim organisation.

She was eventually charged with very serious crimes, punishable by the Criminal Code's articles 158 ("attempting to overthrow the President), 159 ("attempting to overthrow the constitutional order"), 161 ("terrorism") and 164 ("inciting religious hatred").

Another 30 Muslim women were arrested among her family and friends, and are currently detained in isolation wards in a prison in the city of Karshi.

An Uzbek activist told Forum 18 that the women were subjected to “psychological torture and intimidation so they will give testimonies against Ms Hamdamova.

The campaign of repression against religious freedom has also affected Christians. Police raided their meetings, seized religious material (Christian books and tapes) and imposed fines.

On 23 October, 11 Protestants were fined for dining together at a friend’s house and charged with breaking laws on religion by teaching religion without religious training or permission. Fines ranged from 10 to 50 times the average monthly wages.

Previously, on 5 October, 17 other Protestants were fined for “illegal possession” of religious literature.

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