Uzbek Christian arrested and fined for giving New Testament as a gift
A Christian man was fined two weeks’ average wages (around £50) after police discovered a copy of the New Testament during a search of a woman’s flat in December 2018 in Bukhara, south Uzbekistan.
The man, Shukrat Safarov, said that he gave the Uzbek-language copy as a gift to the local woman. Most Uzbek speakers are Muslim.
A court ordered that the book be destroyed. Using a New Testament for “missionary purposes” is a crime, according to the government’s Committee for Religious Affairs.
Forum 18 reported that police forced their way into Safrov’s flat on 27 December without presenting a search warrant or identification and demanded he go to the police station to hear the charges against him. He refused, but complied on 5 January when they returned to his home with an official warrant.
At the police station, Safrov was informed that his case was being dealt with by the local “Struggle with Extremism and Terrorism” Department and he was being charged with breaking two separate laws. These were Administrative Code Article 184-2, which refers to the illegal production, storage or import of religious material for distribution, and Article 240-2 banning proselytization.
Christians are often targeted by the authorities in Uzbekistan. In November 2018 a church was raided by military personnel during a Sunday morning service. Fourteen Christians were arrested and held outside in the cold for nine and a half hours after they refused to confess to a crime they had not committed. There are also frequent cases of unlawful detention, beatings and confiscation of property.