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Uzbekistan: Christians jailed for possessing 'illegal' literature

07 December 2016

Two Christians, Shokir Rakhmatullayev and Dmitri Inyushev, were jailed for five days on 9 November after being found in possession of 'illegal' literature. A police raid on their homes, in the Termez, south Uzbekistan, found religious literature, including a Russian Bible, Uzbek New Testament, Christian CDs, audio tapes and DVDs as well as many pages of personal notes.

Judge Bakhriddin Ikramov ordered Rakhmatullayev and Inyushev to pay 15 per cent each of one month's minimum salary as 'compensation' for the costs of jailing them. They were freed on 14 November.

It is not the prisoners' first brush with the law: they were previously fined for holding a religious meeting in a private home without state permission.

At the same trial Judge Ikramov also fined two other Christians for meeting as a church without state permission. Muhabbat Kabulova and Khursheda Hatamova were each fined 651,200 Soms - around £160 - or five times the minimum monthly salary.

No unapproved religious literature allowed

Uzbekistan continues to clamp down on freedom of religion and belief. Christians are often arrested, fined, and jailed, and police often illegally raid homes without a search warrant. The official line is that religious literature and other materials can only be kept on state-registered places of worship of officially allowed religious communities. In addition, under Uzbekistan's religious censorship, all religious literature produced in or imported into the country must be approved by the Religious Affairs Committee in Tashkent.

Raids on homes to search for such literature are normal, for example in August Baptist Stanislav Kim was given two years' corrective labour in Urgench for having religious books at home, something the authorities punish as 'illegal'. He lives at home under many restrictions, and a fifth of his earnings are confiscated by the state.

Money, Bibles, laptop taken

Meanwhile, Baptist Pastor Dmitri Butov and his wife Svetlana Butova from Zarafshan had their bank accounts frozen and money taken by officials after being found guilty of possessing religious literature. Two Bibles and two Baptist song books were confiscated as well as a laptop computer. Officials have refused to answer questions on the case, which is still under investigation after appeal.

In Navoi, Baptist Ilhom Kholnazarov was fined for handing out Christian literature on a street. His literature was handed over to the local state-controlled Spiritual Administration of Muslims.

On 10 November, in Namangan, police raided the homes of Nikolay Zulfikarov, Odil and Nilufar Solijanov, and Anvar Ashirkulov. Police confiscated the Christian literature they found, including Zulfikarov's personal Bible. They refused to provide legally-required confiscation records. Police then took Bakeyev and Ashirkulov to the local police station, where 'both were kept in cold cells until the next day when they were freed' local Christians told Forum 18.

Source: Forum 18

Please pray:

  • For protection and courage for Christians in Uzbekistan
  • For provision as they pay the fines
  • For peace and healing after these frightening police raids.

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Find out more about persecution in Uzbekistan.