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Christian gathering in Uzbekistan raided by police in bomb search claim

Country/Region: Uzbekistan, Central Asia

Secret police raided a Christian gathering in a home in Uzbekistan claiming to be searching for a bomb.

Eight police and National Security Service officers raided the home of Natalya Kim in Yukori-Chirchik on 27 February. While searching for the alleged bomb, police confiscated Christian books, a laptop and Natalya’s notebooks on living as a Christian.

books_4X3.jpg
Police confiscated Christian books
in the raid

On 9 April, a court fined 14 members of the unregistered Protestant church for an “unsanctioned meeting in a private home”; 13 of them each have to pay 629,200 Soms (US$333; £207), which is ten times the minimum monthly salary in Uzbekistan.

Natalya, who the court declared had “arranged an unauthorised gathering in her home and led a religious meeting”, was fined the much larger sum of 3,775,200 Soms (US$1,999; £1,241), which is 60 times the minimum monthly salary.

They were all convicted for “Attracting believers of one confession to another (proselytism) and other missionary activity” under Administrative Code Article 240, “Violation of the Religion Law”, and Article 184, which concerns producing or storing, with the aim of distribution, “materials containing ideas of religious extremism, separatism, and fundamentalism”.  

Natalya was additionally convicted of breaking Article 202, “Creation of the conditions for conducting unsanctioned gatherings, meetings and street demonstrations”. She had been prosecuted for similar offences in 2009, being fined on that occasion 40 times the minimum monthly salary.

The judge ordered that the seized Christian books be destroyed.

Uzbekistan’s strict religion law makes it one of the most restrictive countries for religious freedom in Central Asia. The authorities penalise those who practice their faith without state permission; between February and April this year, 28 Protestants were fined and four others warned.

The Baptist Council of Churches refuses on principle to register its churches with the state. Eight Christians from this denomination were fined recently for religious offences. Confiscated Christian books, brochures, magazines, CDs, calendars, invitation cards and hymn books were sent to the state Religious Affairs Committee.

On 7 February, ten other Baptists were convicted for offences including “Teaching religious beliefs without specialised religious education and without permission from the central organ of a [registered] religious organisation, as well as teaching religious beliefs privately”. The judge also ordered that 23 Christian magazines confiscated from the group be destroyed.

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