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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

UZBEKISTAN: Trial postponed, home raided to pressure human rights defender

The criminal trial of surgeon and human rights defender Doctor Alimardon Sultonov continues but has been postponed to 24 November, and his home was raided after the second hearing as human rights defender Solmaz Akhmedova of the Human Rights Alliance was present. Police confirmed to Forum 18 that this was the reason for the raid.

UZBEKISTAN: "The draft Religion Law is only an advertisement"

A Venice Commission and OSCE ODIHR opinion on the draft Religion Law has been welcomed by human rights defenders and members of religious and belief communities. Officials have not explained why a draft which they knew seriously failed to implement human rights was sent for review. "We need to understand that the draft Law is only an advertisement for Uzbekistan aimed at international organisations and foreign states," one Muslim noted to Forum 18. "If the authorities wanted real freedom for the people, then the draft Law would have been very different."

UZBEKISTAN: "No real public discussions" of draft Religion Law

On 15 September Uzbekistan's parliament passed the draft Religion Law on its first reading. Yet Muslims and Protestants have told Forum 18 that "no real public discussions have taken place". Officials have refused to explain why the draft is not in line with international human rights standards, as proposed by people in Uzbekistan and UPR recommendations the regime accepted in 2018.

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.

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.

UZBEKISTAN: Synagogue demolition threat now removed?

Tashkent's Jewish community is expecting on 10 August to receive a written court decision confirming that the building company aiming to destroy the Synagogue has withdrawn its suit. "Only then will it become clearer what will happen," a community member told Forum 18. Separately, officials including a Deputy Justice Minister have indicated that existing violations of human rights are likely to remain in a new Religion Law.

UZBEKISTAN: "They want to destroy our Synagogue"

Despite having legal proof that since 1973 Tashkent's Jewish community bought and remains the owner of its Synagogue, a building firm is preparing to demolish it and is claiming "compensation" from the Jewish community. It remains unclear how the city Hokimat (Administration) could allocate the land to the private company. The next hearing in the case brought by the building firm is due on 5 August.

UZBEKISTAN: Agents provocateurs, arrests, torture, criminal cases

In three known cases so far in Tashkent in 2020, Muslims who discussed their faith with others are being prosecuted for alleged terrorism-related offences. In all three cases, the men were tortured and agent provocateurs used to bring false charges. Separately, a surgeon in Karakalpakstan who asked about coronavirus cases and then had religious texts confiscated has been put under house arrest.

UZBEKISTAN: When will draft Religion Law be made public?

Members of religious communities expressed their frustration to Forum 18 about the secrecy of the new Religion Law's drafting process, and the regime's apparent lack of willingness to end restrictions violating human rights obligations. Officials' statements about a draft text do not match the concrete changes people in Uzbekistan have said they would like to see in a new Law.

UZBEKISTAN: Police agent provocateur used to entrap Muslims

A police agent provocateur tried to get four young men interested in Islam to support terrorism. After this failed, Tashkent City Criminal Court jailed three of the men for between five and six years. Despite telling the Court that their "confessions" were extorted by torture "this was totally ignored". Another trial of eight men is underway on similar charges at the same Court.

UZBEKISTAN: Despite coronavirus lockdown officials continue literature raids

The authorities are using a new March Criminal Code Article 244-5 ("Dissemination of knowingly false information about an infectious disease") against a surgeon in Karakalpakstan because he had Muslim religious texts on his computer. Many Islamic texts face a new ban, raids for religious literature continue, and import bans on non-Muslim texts continue.