The right to believe, to worship and witness
The right to change one’s belief or religion
The right to join together and express one’s belief
UZBEKISTAN: Wives demand freedom for imprisoned Muslim husbands
Around 50 wives demonstrated in Namangan on 17 June calling for their husbands to be freed from prison. They claim the men are "prisoners of conscience", punished simply for being "faithful Muslims". "My husband was not a terrorist, he simply said prayers five times a day and attended the mosque regularly," one of the demonstrators Misor Ubaidulaeva told Forum 18 News Service. She says he has almost lost his hearing as a result of beatings in prison in Karshi, where inmates are not allowed to pray. The local police officer admitted to Forum 18 that he had pressured Ubaidulaeva and her mother-in-law to sign pledges undertaking not to take part in further "unlawful meetings".
Ubaidulaeva also complained about conditions in the prison in the southern town of Karshi where her husband is being held. She maintains that Muslim inmates are not allowed to perform their prayers. Ubaidulaeva also declared that her husband is regularly beaten and that he has virtually lost his hearing because of the beatings.
The press officer for Namangan regional administration, Azbek Abdulaev, confirmed to Forum 18 on 20 June that the demonstration had taken place, but claimed that it had consisted only of "around 15 people". He insisted that the police had not dispersed the demonstrators.
However, the head of the Namangan regional branch of the Independent Society of Human Rights of Uzbekistan, Gulyamzhon Khalmatov, told Forum 18 on 21 June that the local police are demanding a written pledge from the women that they will not take part in any more demonstrations.
When Forum 18 met the local police officer for Namangan's Istikol district where Ubaidulaeva lives, Lieutenant Omajon Juraev, on 21 June, he did not deny that he had made Ubaidulaeva and her mother-in-law Habiba Sadykova write pledges. In the pledges, which he showed to Forum 18, the women undertake "not to take part in unlawful meetings and to apply on all issues to the authorities of the district".
19 June 2003
UZBEKISTAN: New controls on access to religious websites
Access to two more foreign-based websites that carry news on religious developments in Uzbekistan has been barred by the authorities, Forum 18 News Service has discovered while using the Internet in Uzbekistan. One of those now barred is the US-based Islamic radical site, www.muslimuzbekistan.com, which aims to inform "about the true situation of Muslims of this region, on the many thousands of tortures which they undergo for their steadfast faithfulness to their religion". One Internet cafe owner in Tashkent told Forum 18 that he is obliged to check that his customers do not look at "forbidden" information, in accordance with instructions from the National Security Service (the former KGB). He said any customer looking at "forbidden" websites he reports to the NSS would be arrested and fined about 46 US dollars.
9 June 2003
UZBEKISTAN: Judge defends burning of Baptist magazine
The judge who ordered the destruction of 211 copies of a Russian Baptist magazine confiscated from local Baptist Aleksei Yermolayev on his return to the country has strongly defended his ruling. "Yermolayev tried to bring the magazines into Uzbekistan illegally," Marat Alimukhamedov told Forum 18 in Tashkent. He says the magazines would have been sent back had Yermolayev declared them at the customs post on the border. "If the literature was brought into Uzbekistan illegally, then we have the right to destroy it," he insisted. Local Baptists have protested against the court-ordered destruction of the magazine and the fine of 23 US dollars handed down. They also complained that Yermolayev was not even informed that the hearing was taking place.
2 June 2003
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.