06/18/2011, 00.00
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Uzbekistan, illegal to own a Bible or pray together

Police beatings and threats against Christians who hold religious gatherings or even own a Bible. The long list of normal, everyday violence against Christians.
Tashkent (AsiaNews/F18) - Beatings and threats: Protestants continue to suffer persecution in Uzbekistan. Mid-May in Eastern Uzbekistan police badly beat a woman, attacking in her home, in front of her daughter, for having taken part in Christian religious activities. The news agency Forum 18 denounced the episode after learning of it from local sources, asking for anonymity. Several hospitals have also refused to treat the woman, frightened by the police.

F18 has made inquiries with the local police, who refused to discuss it.

In the country, even owning a Bible can be a serious crime. The appeals court in Tashkent ordered the Christian Baptist Galina Shemetova to a fine of 2,486,750 som (about 1,015 euros, 50 times the minimum monthly pay) for having given a children’s Bible to a colleague. For this reason she is accused of proselytizing. The woman was also beaten by the police, but that the court of appeals did not want to discuss the issue.

On April 14 the Protestant Anvar Rajapov was sentenced to a fine of 80 times the minimum wage because the police found religious books in his house. The Tashkent court did not notify him of the sentence, but the police confiscated his passport and threatened him with death if he appeals the decision. Rajapov has made a complaint directly addressing the country's President Islam Karimov and the Supreme Court.

Also in Tashkent in April, the police and special forces carried out secret searches of Baptist Christians’ homes, confiscating thousands of religious texts.

On 26 May Tashkent police arrested the Baptists Amir Temur and Sergey Shilnikov: they had a Bible, two Gospels of John and two other religious texts. They were charged for having introduced and illegally traded improper religious literature.

In early June, the district authorities of Hamza tried to convince some Baptists to sign a statement that the pastor Konstantin Malchikovsky and Anna Portova had sold them religious texts, without paying taxes. A charge punishable by 2 years in prison. To convince them, the police arrested some of the Baptist faithful, holding them for hours without charge and even threatened some with arresting their children. The Baptists all refused, and the authorities mentioned, approached by F18, did not want to talk about it.

The Commission of the United Nations Convention against Torture has reported that violence in the country, torture and threats against religious freedom are "normal." The law on religious freedom makes it difficult for groups to obtain recognition and the law considers illegal any activity of groups not recognized, even praying at home together.
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