Uzbek Christians beaten by police and detained

A group of twelve Christians who had met together to worship the Lord in Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan, on Sunday 8 November, were detained, and some of them beaten, when eight plain-clothed anti-terrorism police officers stormed their meeting at 11 am and seized a large quantity of Christian literature.

Police handcuffed two of the believers and another, Ruslan Bekzhanov, was “hit and kicked” on the head and in the abdomen by an armed police officer, reported Forum 18 news agency, leaving him with a split lip. During the raid, police officers seized 100 Christian books and other Christian materials as well as computers, mobile phones, cameras and a guitar.

The Christians were then taken to the police station, where they were held for nine hours. During that time, they were forbidden to use the toilet facilities and denied water to drink. Some of the Christians detained had infant children with them and were not allowed to feed them until they wrote statements against Sarvar Zhuliyev, whose home they had met in.

Those of the Christians who were parents were forced to write statements declaring that Sarvar Zhuliyev had “taught them the faith of Jesus Christ,” said Forum 18. Some of the children were also questioned by police and forced to write statements. Police beat two of the Christians with their hands.

On 16 November, at the Yashnobod District Criminal Court, the Christians were fined under the country’s administrative codes against the illegal production, storage and import of religious materials; violating the Religion Law; and teaching religious beliefs without permission from a registered body.

The publication and distribution of religious literature is subject to intense state control in what is considered to be one of the most repressive regimes in Central Asia in terms of religious freedom, and all Christian activity is illegal for members of unregistered churches.

Problems began for the believers when the head teacher of a school in the capital’s Yashnobod District told police that two pupils were speaking about their faith with other pupils. According to the local believers, the pupils had attended their meetings on two occasions. However, the pupils reportedly then wrote statements against Sarvar Zhuliyev at the police station on 5 November, according to Forum 18.

Children are sometimes pressured into writing statements against Christians. In late 2014, police charged a pastor with religion offences after they bullied five children into writing statements against him in the town of Dostabod, near Tashkent.

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