Friday, May 13, 2011

April was a cruel month in Uzbekistan

April saw an upsurge in raids, literature confiscations and heavy fines—as well as court-ordered literature destruction—to punish Protestants in Uzbekistan's capital of Tashkent, reported Forum 18 News Service.

In the wake of an April 5 raid on his home, Protestant Anvar Rajapov was heavily fined for alleged proselytism, illegal religious meetings and illegal literature. The judge ordered that the vast majority of the religious literature confiscated from him be destroyed.

Protestants who know Rajapov, who wished to remain unnamed for fear of state reprisals, told Forum 18 on May 12 that "the whole case is fabricated." They said that the authorities did not reveal any religious meetings in Rajapov's home during an earlier raid but "only authorized religious literature.” They added that Rajapov does not conduct religious meetings or teach religion in his home.

"There is no evidence" for the charges brought against Rajapov, and the court "did not prove any of it,” they told Forum 18.

A registered Baptist church in Tashkent—twice raided in early April—had four members given massive fines. In late April the church itself was massively fined after tax authorities alleged it failed to use a cash register to record sales and donations. Officials told Forum 18 that one church member, Konstantin Malchikovsky, now faces criminal prosecution with a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment.

Uzbekistan's authorities keep all religious communities under very tight control and surveillance. In defiance of the country's international human rights obligations all unregistered religious activity is illegal. All religious literature is subject to compulsory prior state censorship.

You can read the full Forum 18 story here. Please pray for religious freedoms in Uzbekistan!

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