The former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan is taking a hard line on Christians.
Recently a Christian in eastern Uzbekistan was beaten by police, another was threatened with death and a Baptist congregation was threatened with prison for failure to co-operate in a pre-trial investigation of their pastor, according the Voice of the Martyrs, a Christian advocacy group.
Physical violence and torture by local authorities against peoples of all faiths is commonplace in Uzbekistan, but many refuse to speak out for fear of reprisals.
A woman in eastern Uzbekistan was beaten in her home by police while her parents were being interrogated over their religious activity at the local police station
Officers kicked the woman and hit her on the head, giving her a concussion, but local hospitals refused to treat her, according to Voice of the Martyrs.
The woman has since recovered, but still experiences headaches; her parents hope that the authorities will eventually allow their daughter to be treated at a hospital.
In Tashkent, police threatened to kill Anvar Rajapov if he continued to challenge an enormous fine for having Christian literature in his home discovered during a police raid.
“I have prepared an axe for you, which will be flying after you, observing you and if need be, kill you,” Major Zufar Rashidov reportedly told Rajapov.
Police continue to hold Rajapov’s passport because “no one has the right in Uzbekistan to challenge court decisions.”
Rajapov has written complaints about his treatment to President Islam Karimov, the Supreme Court and other state agencies.
Tashkent Investigator Aleksandr Ten threatened a Baptist congregation with prison and beatings if they didn’t sign statements against their church’s pastor, Konstantin Malchikovsky and Anna Portova, the church bookkeeper, whom he is both prosecuting.
Ten attempted to force church members to write statements that Malchikovsky and Portova sold religious books without paying tax in violation of Criminal Code Article 189 Part 2: Violation of the regulations for trade or delivery of services. If convicted, the pair faces up to two years’ imprisonment.
The Uzbekistan National Security Service closely monitors all religious activity through a network of both police officers and informants.
In mid-May in Eastern Uzbekistan police badly beat a woman, attacking her in her home, in front of her daughter, for having taken part in Christian religious activities. The news agency Forum 18 learned of the incident from local sources who asked for anonymity. Several hospitals refused to treat the woman out of fear of trouble with police. Forum 18 made inquiries with the local police, who refused to discuss it.
In the country, even owning a Bible can be a serious crime. An appeals court in Tashkent ordered a Baptist, Galina Shemetova, to pay a fine of 2,486,750 soum (more than US $1,450) for having given a children’s Bible to a colleague.
She was accused of proselytizing and beaten by police while she was in custody.
Christian Anvar Rajapov was sentenced to a fine of 80 times the minimum wage because the police found religious books in his house. The Tashkent court did not notify him of the sentence, but the police confiscated his passport and threatened him with death if he appeals the decision. Rajapov has made a complaint directly addressing the country’s President Islam Karimov and the Supreme Court.
Also in Tashkent in April, the police and special forces carried out secret searches of Baptist Christians’ homes, confiscating thousands of religious texts.
On 26 May Tashkent police arrested the Baptists Amir Temur and Sergey Shilnikov: they had a Bible, two Gospels of John and two other religious texts. They were charged for having introduced and illegally traded improper religious literature.
In early June, the district authorities of Hamza tried to convince some Baptists to sign a statement that the pastor Konstantin Malchikovsky and Anna Portova had sold them religious texts, without paying taxes. A charge punishable by 2 years in prison. To convince them, the police arrested some of the Baptist faithful, holding them for hours without charge and even threatened some with arresting their children. The Baptists all refused, and the authorities mentioned, approached by F18, did not want to talk about it.
The Commission of the United Nations Convention against Torture has reported that violence in the country, torture and threats against religious freedom are “normal.”
The law on religious freedom makes it difficult for groups to obtain recognition and the law considers illegal any activity of groups not recognized, even praying at home together