09/20/2007, 00.00
UZBEKISTAN
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Government says reports of religious persecution “false”

Christians continue to be arrested and fined for owning Bibles and gathering together, even to celebrate birthdays. Karakalpakstan refuses to recognise all religious groups. But the government says that believers are free to “meet in private homes”.

Tashkent (AsiaNews/F18) – Uzbek authorities deny persecution of the faithful and claim that Christians are free to gather “without authorization” in private homes.  But arrests and fines continue for Christians for “illegal activities”.

Sharofat Allamova,  a protestant from Urgench, was arrested June 10th because she was carrying a copy of the New Testament and other Christian books and CD’s.  August 27 she was condemned to a 6 month suspended sentence, for possession of “illegal religious material”.  The government demands public authorization for all religious material, comprising the Bible.

August 29 pastor Khyn-Mun Kim of the protestant Church of Peace, was fined of an amount of a years wages for having carried out “illegal religious activity” Karakalpakstan, that is for having preached. Another member of the group was also fined Me Vol Kim. The group has consistently asked for recognition, but almost all religions bar Islam and Russian Orthodox are banned in the region. Over 29 groups have been refused permission and the Pentecostal Church of Emmanuel has seen its authorisation revoked.

September 13th in Termez the police interrupted a birthday party of protestant Vitaly Suvorov bringing all of the invitees to the station and holding them overnight.  One was beaten and 12 were charged with “illegally gathering to profess their faith and distribute illegal religious material”.   Some books which were sequestered were sent on to experts to be “studied”. Suvorov had already been beaten by police in 2006 for having participated in a summer camp run by the Church.

Klara Alasheva, Karakalpakstan's First Deputy Justice Minister, has completely denied that any religious communities face difficulties. "No-one has any problem registering," she claimed to Forum 18 on 17 September. Told that Peace Church has been trying to regain its lost legal status since 2000 and that Protestant and Jehovah's Witness communities have repeatedly been denied legal status she retorted: "You have been wrongly informed. If registration was take away it was a decision of a court. If they were denied registration it was for a valid reason. We have the Constitution, [which guarantees religious freedom regardless of whether communities have registration or not] but we also have the law”. “Believers can meet in their own home without registration." Told by Forum 18 of the latest attack on peaceful religious believers, she again retorted: "You have been wrongly informed." She then put the phone down..

 

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