Uzbek father-of-four pastor Latif was arrested on Saturday (12 March) after police went to the homes of six Christian families, including the pastor’s, in the Fergana Valley in eastern Uzbekistan. The police were searching for Christian literature and resources as they had been informed that a large quantity of Jesus Film DVDs and Christian literature had been brought to the region.
At 6.30 am, around 15 people came to the pastor’s home in three cars, a Barnabas Fund contact wrote to tell us, but not all of them were wearing police uniforms. Our contact working on the ground in Uzbekistan went immediately to the pastor’s house after he received a phone call telling him about the raid. “When I arrived to their home … they asked my documents and passports,” he wrote, “then I also asked their documents and permission to search the house. They have already started searching the house. During this process children were frightened and wife got unwell.”
The police then ordered pastor Latif to go to the police station. Our contact accompanied the pastor there with the intention of making a declaration at the prosecutor’s office regarding the illegal behaviour of the police. But just as the men were about to enter the door, police dragged pastor Latif away by force and detained him.
They also referred our contact to the road traffic police and falsely accused him of misconduct. The police then took his documents, searched his car and confiscated it. He is due to appear in court in a few days’ time to face trial for the false charge.
When pastor Latif’s wife and family went to the police station to bring him warm clothes and food, they were informed that he was not there. For five days following his arrest they were kept in the dark about his whereabouts. Our contact mentions that the family suffered much during this time.
Today (17 March) Latif’s wife was notified by the district police that on 12 March Latif had been sentenced to 15 days in prison for not submitting to authorities. Our contact, who witnessed Latif’s arrest, asserts that the charges are false.
Our contact has also expressed concern for Latif’s health; prior to his arrest he was experiencing heart and back pain.
All evangelism is illegal in Uzbekistan, the most repressive of the Central Asian republics. Christians accused of storing, importing or distributing Christian literature face heavy fines, and Christian literature is likely to be confiscated or destroyed.