UZBEKISTAN: Police beat Jehovah's Witnesses
Jehovah's Witnesses are considering whether to demand a criminal case against the police officers who beat four of their members in Kagan, one of whom lost consciousness. The four – who were arrested on 1 May for preaching on the street – are being threatened with legal cases. "For the time being we are holding back the reports of the beatings," lawyer Rustam Satdanov told Forum 18 News Service. "But if the case goes to trial despite this, we will call for a criminal case to be brought against the police officers for beating believers." A police officer has denied that any of the Jehovah's Witnesses were beaten. "They had not committed a serious enough offence to deserve a beating!" the deputy head of Kagan's investigation isolation unit told Forum 18.
Police officers in Kagan arrested the Jehovah's Witnesses on 1 May, Satdanov told Forum 18. The four – local residents Shahzoda Pulatova and Negmat Hojayev, as well as Igor Pak and Stanislav Ten who were visiting from Tashkent - were taken to the town's police department, where police officers started to beat them. Satdanov claims the two Jehovah's Witnesses from Kagan received a particularly severe beating. Hojayev lost consciousness while he was being beaten.
Satdanov told Forum 18 that after several hours the four were released, but police warned them that their case would be handed over to court. They said a criminal case would be brought first of all against Pulatova, because it was the second time this year that she had been arrested by the police.
Straight after the beating Hojayev and Pulatova went to the hospital in Kagan, where doctors gave them a report on the injuries they had sustained. In the report given to Pulatova, it states that "she is suffering from raised internal cranial pressure as a result of blows".
Nevertheless, the deputy head of the investigation isolation unit in Kagan, Shavkat Abdullayev, who was involved in questioning the four, strongly denied that any of them were beaten. "No one beat the Jehovah's Witnesses," he told Forum 18 on 29 May. "They had not committed a serious enough offence to deserve a beating!"
Abdullayev declared that "the court would decide whether to bring a criminal case or an administrative case against the believers". He added that they were waiting for Pak and Ten to come to Kagan "because without them we cannot hold a court hearing".
30 May 2003
Pentecostal pastor Bakhtier Tuichiev's registration application for his church in Andijan – lodged four months ago - has stalled. "Officially, no-one has refused me," he told Forum 18. "It is simply that every day I am told to come back tomorrow. I am sure the authorities are quite deliberately dragging their feet." However, an official of the city administration denied there was any deliberate obstruction. "We have been holding a sports competition, and have not had the time to devote to this issue," Izatullo Khojayev told Forum 18. "I have already told Tuichiev that we will deal with his application very soon." Police have warned the pastor that if the church continues to operate without registration, he will be brought to court.
29 May 2003
Ten days after his home in the village of Yubileiny was raided by police, who confiscated religious literature, Jehovah's Witness Shukhrat Ashurov and his colleague Alisher Argeliyev appeared on 28 May at Gazalkent town court. "According to my sources, at the next hearing Ashurov and Argeliyev will be charged with preaching to children," their lawyer Rustam Satdanov told Forum 18 News Service. "The leaflets were brought to Uzbekistan legally," Ashurov insisted to Forum 18. "As far as I know, there is no ban on the Bible, New Testament and Koran in Uzbekistan." Villagers have demanded that the two abandon the Jehovah's Witness faith and return to Islam, otherwise they will be expelled.
20 May 2003
After a major investigation, Forum 18 News Service established that the Muslim clergy is almost completely under the control of the Uzbek authorities, while the leadership of the muftiate's spiritual administration is virtually an agency of state authority. Imams do not have the right to compose the Friday addresses themselves, but are obliged to read out texts approved by the muftiate. During the US-led war in Iraq, imams felt obliged to speak in support of the campaign, despite their own and popular opposition to it. In defiance of the law, the state appoints and removes imams. Students in Islamic colleges are closely monitored for their political reliability. Many mosques have been denied registration and Forum 18 has seen some being used, as in the Soviet period, as clubs, libraries or museums. Ironically, Islam is the faith in Uzbekistan that is most thoroughly controlled by the authorities.