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The right to believe, to worship and witness
The right to change one’s belief or religion
The right to join together and express one’s belief

BELARUS: Another Catholic priest banned from serving

Belarus' senior state religious affairs official gave the Catholic bishop of Vitebsk one day's notice that he was annulling permission for Polish priest Jerzy Wilk to serve in his parish, giving no reason. Fr Wilk has served in Belarus since 2003. The State Border Committee told Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz he was denied re-entry because his Belarusian passport was invalid. The Interior Ministry then said it was checking if he gained citizenship lawfully.

TAJIKISTAN: "No reason to fear" census religion question?

Some fear the religion question in the October nationwide census will be used to facilitate freedom of religion and belief violations. "It is probable that Tajiks who have accepted the Christian faith, or are Ahmadis, or are Salafi Muslims, will feel forced to lie and write that they are Hanafi Muslims," one commentator noted. Some Protestants fear the authorities "are trying to identify our members and where they are located".

TURKMENISTAN: 24th conscientious objector jailed since 2018

A court in Mary Region jailed 18-year-old Myrat Orazgeldiyev for one year on 3 September, the 24th Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector to military service to be imprisoned since January 2018. Eleven – including Orazgeldiyev – are now jailed, eight of them at the harsh Seydi Labour Camp, where a former prisoner of conscience described conditions as "inhuman". All 24 young men offered to do an alternative civilian service, but none exists.

UZBEKISTAN: Jail, restricted freedom sentences, for discussing faith

Tashkent Criminal Court on 14 August punished eight Muslims who discussed their faith on social media, jailing five for up to 11 and a half years, giving the other three restricted freedom sentences. The men knew each other mainly on social media "where they were asking questions about Islam", the mother of one of those jailed said. Prosecutors also handed a criminal case against four more Muslims to court.

UZBEKISTAN: Prisoner requests meeting with sister "maybe for last time"

After his July transfer to Navoi's strict regime prison, 45-year-old Muslim prisoner of conscience Khayrullo Tursunov called his sister again asking to see her "maybe for the last time". With officials denying prison visits, citing the coronavirus pandemic, relatives are concerned. Prison officials claim his "safety is guaranteed and he is engaged in useful labour". Former Tashkent imam Ruhiddin Fahrutdinov was amnestied after 15 years, but the state will take 20 per cent of his wages.

BELARUS: Catholic Church "cannot exist without its leader"

Border guards denied Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, head of Belarus' Catholic Church, re-entry to his own country on 31 August. President Aleksandr Lukashenko says he is on the shared Belarus/Russia entry ban list. No officials explained to Archbishop Kondrusiewicz – a Belarusian citizen – why he is barred. "The right of a citizen to enter the Republic of Belarus cannot be restricted," says the Law on Exit and Entry for Belarusian Citizens.

UZBEKISTAN: Restrictions remain in draft new Religion Law

The draft new Religion Law now in Parliament would, in defiance of Uzbekistan's international human rights commitments, continue to ban all exercise of freedom of religion and belief without state permission, ban teaching about religion without state permission, continue the compulsory prior censorship of all materials about religion and ban sharing of faith. "There's not much difference between the draft Law and the current Law," commented human rights defender Bahodyr Eliboyev.

RUSSIA: 42 known "missionary activity" prosecutions in first half of 2020 – list

Forum 18 has found 42 prosecutions in the first half of 2020 (2 of organisations and 40 of individuals) for violating Russia's July 2016 Administrative Code Article 5.26, Parts 4 and 5, which punish "illegal missionary activity". 36 of the prosecutions resulted in initial convictions, all being punished with fines (though a few were overturned on appeal). The first half of 2020 saw a conviction rate of 92 per cent. Two foreigners were ordered deported.