Ten Christians have been fined by a criminal court in Uzbekistan for meeting together without state permission. The court ordered that their confiscated Bibles and church songbooks be destroyed. In a separate incident, a believer in capital city Tashkent was bullied by police for carrying a Bible in his bag, and fined by a court.
On 25 September, the Karshi Criminal Court in Uzbekistan’s south-eastern Kashkadarya Region fined three Christians 50 times the minimum monthly wage and seven more 30 times the minimum monthly wage, for violating the Religion Law and illegally storing religious literature, according to news agency Forum18.
The same court also ordered that the believers’ personal Bibles, Easter greetings cards, and church songbooks, all of which had been seized by Uzbek authorities, be destroyed.
The Christians had been meeting together without the required state registration when authorities raided their meeting on 26 April. They recorded the names of the believers, questioned them, and filmed the worship service, said Forum18.
Children were also present at the meeting. The authorities filmed a man who said he was speaking on behalf of the Karshi City Education Department. The Church “poisons the minds of the children and deprives them of their bright future,” he said. The head of the Karshi Education Department later confirmed to Forum18 that this man was unknown to them.
Authorities again raided a meeting on 2 August, asking why the Christians were continuing to meet. They promised court action would soon be taken.
Christian man detained and bullied by police in capital city
In a separate incident, Timur Akhmedov, an Uzbek Christian, was stopped by police at a Metro Station in the Mirabad District of the country’s capital city, Tashkent, on 21 September. He was searched, and when the officers discovered his Bible, Christian literature and discs, they confiscated them.
Two weeks later, he was summoned by police and questioned. “Mirabad Police bullied Akhmedov, pushing and pulling him, hitting him a couple of times,” said local Christians. “Officers questioned him about where he received the literature.”
The Tashkent Mirabad District Criminal Court fined Akhmedov five times the monthly minimum wage for illegally storing religious literature, and ordered that it be destroyed.
The publication and distribution of religious literature is subject to intense state control in Uzbekistan and all Christian activity is illegal for members of unregistered churches. Uzbekistan has long been recognised as one of the most repressive regimes in Central Asia with respect to religious freedom.