05/06/2011, 00.00
UZBEKISTAN
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Protestant leader arrested for importing religious books and CDs

He brought thousands of banned material into the country. An investigation is opened. No end to religious persecution in the former Soviet nation.

Tashkent (AsiaNews) - Uzbekistani authorities continue ti clamp down on religion. According to Interfax news agency, the leader of the Protestant missionary group Iso Masih was arrested this week for bringing "illegal literature" into the country. According to a source, the police, after detaining Anvar Razhapov seized more than 350 books of Protestant literature from his house. " "Among other material taken away, all considered illegal, are 180 CDs and DVDs, 44 videotapes and 22 audio cassettes with content aimed at ideological control and the education of young people in the spirit of Protestantism," the source added.

According to preliminary investigations, Razhapov violated the law - which prohibits the introduction of Protestant literature in Uzbeksitan - importing several titles from Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. In addition, the missionary used funds paid monthly by foreign sponsors to buy a car and other property in Tashkent. The judicial authorities have opened a file on the case.

Religious persecution is systematic in the ex-Soviet country. Article. 8 of the 'law of religion' only allows registered groups to practise their faith, but often it takes years to receive registration. Conversions are prohibited among Christians and Protestants are the most targeted. The state controls and especially targets the Islamic religion, which counts 92% of the population. Under the guise of fighting radicalism, the authorities have their own media and educational institutions to educate a class of imams for the faithful, who are then put in charge of mosques.

Currently, according to data from InterfaxReligion more than 2,220 religious organizations of 16 different denominations operate in the country, of which 2 thousand are Muslims. 159 Christian organizations are registered, eight Jewish ones and six Bahai. There is also a Buddhist temple and a Krishna community. (NA)
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