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23 August 2004

UZBEKISTAN: Police break state and international law

Police have raided a Jehovah's Witness meeting in Samarkand [Samarqand], without any legal documentation, closely questioning participants in the meeting under great psychological pressure, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. The police told participants that they would be fined under Article 241 "breaking the law on giving religious instruction" of Uzbekistan's administrative code, and the internal affairs administration told Forum 18 that "we were acting within the law". Both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Uzbekistan has freely signed, and Uzbekistan's own religion law contradict this claim.

20 August 2004

UZBEKISTAN: No names, no questions, in latest trials of Muslims

In a trial of 12 Muslims in the Fergana [Farghona] Valley, apparently on trial for being devout, Judge Gozikhon Yakhyakhojayev has refused to release the names of the accused, telling Forum 18 News Service that "I myself have not yet got to grips with this case, and I feel it is simply too early to give any details to the press." In another trial, of 2 devout Muslims, his colleague Judge Ismailov has been accused by defence lawyers of joining the prosecution in trying to secure convictions, and of not allowing defence lawyers to question witnesses. In both cases, Forum 18 has been told that the ordinary police and NSS secret police have been accused of planting evidence on those accused.

16 August 2004

UZBEKISTAN: Another Muslim jailed for being a Muslim?

Abdugafar Karimov is the latest Muslim apparently jailed for being a devout Muslim known to Forum 18 News Service, being sentenced to five years' imprisonment for "undermining the constitutional basis of the Republic of Uzbekistan". His wife, Oklima Karimova, says that evidence of about 10 Hizb ut-Tahrir leaflets and a video was planted, and told Forum 18 that one prosecution witness refused to appear in court because of "a troubled conscience". Further similar trials are continuing.

10 August 2004

UZBEKISTAN: Police knew search results before they searched

In the latest series of trials of Muslims, apparently simply because they are devout Muslims, ten men have been sentenced to jail terms of between 10 and 12 years, a local human rights activist has told Forum 18 News Service. All ten have denied the criminal charges made and claim that evidence was planted on them. Forum 18 has been told that the wife of one of those arrested, Mukudas Yusupova, was mistakenly given by police a document showing the results of the search before the search had been conducted. Neither lawyers for the accused, nor human rights activists, nor journalists, were allowed into the court to hear the sentence, and police officers beat up protestors calling for journalists, human rights activists and lawyers to be allowed into the court.

6 August 2004

UZBEKISTAN: Being a devout Muslim a crime?

Two groups of Muslims, detained respectively just before and just after the March/April terrorist attacks, are now being tried in southern Uzbekistan, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. The authorities state that leaflets of the banned Islamist Hizb ut-Tahrir party and drugs were found in the homes of the people being tried, but a local human rights activist insists to Forum 18 that this evidence was planted, and that their only "crime" was to be devout Muslims. Relatives claim that those accused were subjected to brutal treatment during questioning. Although the trials are officially open to the public, both journalists and human rights activists have been refused admittance.

4 August 2004

UZBEKISTAN: No religious freedom deterioration after bombings

Protestants, Jehovah's Witnesses, Hare Krishna devotees, Muslims and independent human rights groups Forum 18 News Service has spoken to all agree that, in marked contrast to the situation after the March/April terrorist attacks, the authorities reactions after the most recent terrorist bombings have not caused a substantial deterioration in the religious freedom situation.

30 July 2004

UZBEKISTAN: Baptist denied permission to live in own home

In what he describes as "a vicious circle", Baptist Vsevolod Kalinin has again been refused a residence permit to live in his own home in the capital Tashkent, Forum 18 News Service has been told. In an open court hearing, a representative of the commission of the Tashkent city administration responsible for residence permits said that Kalinin's religious convictions were the main reason for refusing him a residence permit. It is unusual for Uzbek authorities to take a close interest in residential addresses, but Kalinin has since 2002 been the target of close scrutiny by authorities in Tashkent. As well as visits from the police, a military recruitment office has told Kalinin that he could be detained while his place of residence was checked. All Kalinin's appeals, including to Uzbek president Karimov, are met with the reply that he should appeal again to the commission which denied him a residence permit.

29 July 2004

UZBEKISTAN: Jail for leading home Koran study group?

Armed NSS secret police have raided the home of Normurod Zhumaev, a doctor in the Uzbek capital Tashkent, arrested him and confiscated Muslim religious literature and computer equipment, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. He is still under arrest and has been charged under an article of the criminal code which punishes "the creation or leadership of, or participation in, religious extremist, separatist, fundamentalist or other banned organisations". His wife says that he did lead studies of the Koran with a group of his friends, but insists to Forum 18 that the small group did not discuss politics. It is possible that Zhumaev may have attracted the NSS's attention because, like his family, he is a notably devout Muslim and a friend of an imam who was arrested in April.

22 July 2004

UZBEKISTAN: Hare Krishna devotees expelled and correspondent threatened

Urgench State University has, because of their beliefs, expelled three Hare Krishna devotees, under the pretext of low marks in exams, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. This follows NSS secret police closely monitoring the unregistered Hare Krishnas. In Uzbekistan, contrary to human rights agreements the country has signed, unregistered religious communities are forbidden. The university authorities have also attacked Hare Krishnas, the natural science faculty's dean, Ruzumbay Eschanov, making unsubstantiated allegations, including claiming that Hare Krishna devotees are planning a coup d'etat or putsch. Hare Krishna devotees Forum 18 has spoken to have been told by the NSS that Forum 18's correspondent will be expelled, but the NSS has refused to discuss this with Forum 18. Khorezm is one of Uzbekistan's most difficult regions for religious minorities, with only one open Christian church left and the NSS admitting that "we are the ones who closed down the Baptists' church".

16 July 2004

UZBEKISTAN: Why can't Jewish community re-establish rabbinate?

Begzot Kadyrov of the government's committee for religious affairs told Forum 18 News Service that while his committee supports the Jewish community's desire to re-establish the rabbinate abolished when the restrictive religion law was adopted in 1998, the justice ministry did not deem it "necessary". Without such a central organisation, the Jewish community cannot set up educational institutions. Asked by Forum 18 to comment on this continued denial of recognition of a rabbinate, chief rabbi Abe Dovid Gurevich explained that the community had to close down its yeshivas, the theological schools that train rabbis, while rabbis are in very short supply. "The closure of the yeshivas is a major issue for us." He believes the refusal to allow the reestablishment of the rabbinate harms Uzbekistan's international image.

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