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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: Regime continues repeated arbitrary blocking of registration

Regime officials have in 2023 and 2024 continued to, as in previous years, repeatedly use a variety of tactics to block state registration applications from Muslim and non-Muslim religious communities. Jehovah's Witnesses, Muslims, and Protestants have all experienced blocking of registration attempts, and in a Jehovah's Witness case courts have backed the regime's arbitrary use of its power. "The Religion Law gives the authorities unlimited powers to refuse our registration, to our regret," Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. Unregistered Protestant communities have also come under police and SSS secret police pressure, including attempts to recruit informers.

UZBEKISTAN: Large fines for sharing beliefs with permission

The regime has resumed fining people who share their faith with others. A Tashkent court fined Jehovah's Witness Nadezhda Manatskova two weeks' average wages in October 2023. The same court fined Elnora Maksutova 8 months' average wages and Marina Penkova over 5 and a half months' average wages in February 2024. In the previous last known case, a Protestant was fined in January 2019. "Members of this community are telling people to join their religion, and this cannot be accepted," says the police officer who questioned Manatskova.

UZBEKISTAN: Muslim prayer rooms closed, Bukhara Baptists unable to meet

The regime has blocked Bukhara's registered Baptist Union Church from meeting since May 2021, but it hopes to be given a new building in 2024. "When we tried to rent other places to meet, we were refused," Baptists said. The Interior Ministry has closed public Muslim prayer rooms nationwide, using excuses such as escaped prisoners may use them. An Interior Ministry official could not explain to Forum 18 how Muslims who want to pray the five-times-a-day namaz prayers can pray if they are in public places.

UZBEKISTAN: New punishments "correspond to international standards"?

Senator Batyr Matmuratov would not say why Criminal and Administrative Code amendments to increase punishments related to exercising freedom of religion or belief, adopted by both chambers of parliament in September, were not first published for public comment. He falsely claimed that all laws "correspond to international standards". Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov reportedly warned state officials not to attend mosque, though his spokesperson denied this. From the summer, police resumed detentions on the street of Muslim women wearing religious clothes, including the hijab and niqab, and men growing beards.

UZBEKISTAN: Devout Muslim jailed after return to country

Prisoner of conscience and devout Muslim, 52-year-old Alijon Mirganiyev has been transferred to a strict regime prison to serve a 6 and a half year sentence imposed after he returned to Uzbekistan from Turkey. He was promised he would not be arrested if he returned to end criminal charges brought against him for his exercise of freedom of religion and belief, but was arrested on arrival at Tashkent Airport. "This is one of the numerous fabricated cases made against influential Muslims," says human rights defender Yelena Urlayeva.

UZBEKISTAN: 15-day jail for haram yoghurt videos

Hojiakbar Nosirov, a 25-year-old consumer rights activist from Tashkent, posted a video on social media on 5 April declaring that the red colouring agent carmine he had found in locally-sold yoghurt is haram (forbidden) for Muslims. Police investigated and commissioned an "expert analysis" from the regime's Religious Affairs Committee that claimed Nosirov had expressed "enmity, intolerance or discord". A 3-minute closed online trial jailed him for 15 days. "The experts quickly conducted a literary examination, wrote down the conclusion and decided the fate of an individual", his lawyer complained.

UZBEKISTAN: Easter church raid, Baptists tortured, prison Ramadan fast ban

Police raided the Baptist Church in Karshi during worship on Easter Sunday, 9 April. They "damaged the door of the prayer house, behaved crudely, and arrested three church members", Baptists said. Police "brutally beat David Ibragimov and a few more church members in front of our fellow believers" and "used electric shock prods and other implements to incapacitate" church members. Police refused to explain why they raided the church and tortured church members. Open Prison No. 49 in Olmalyk banned prisoners from fasting during Ramadan, threatening those that do.

UZBEKISTAN: "Go on dreaming!" prison governor replies to tortured prisoner of conscience's medical need

Prisoner of conscience Fazilkhoja Arifkhojayev is being forced to do work he cannot medically do, damaging his spine even more. He has been repeatedly tortured, and when the family asked Prison Governor Oybek Tishayev personally whether they could arrange medical care at their own cost, or as required by the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (known as the Mandela Rules) the prison could arrange the necessary specialist medical care. Tishayev replied: "Go on dreaming!"

UZBEKISTAN: Judge jails Muslim as he "read literature .. spread his beliefs .. met others"

A Bukhara Region court jailed 47-year-old Bobirjon Tukhtamurodov for 5 years 1 month for participating in a group that met to study the works of Muslim theologian Said Nursi. Judge Akrom Rakhimov told Forum 18 that prisoner of conscience Tukhtamurodov was jailed as: "He not only read literature, but spread his beliefs and met others." He had returned from exile in Russia after Uzbekistan's regime told him he would not be jailed.

UZBEKISTAN: "The authorities do not want us to exist"

The regime has nationwide in 2021 and 2022 blocked state registration attempts by Muslim, Protestant, and Jehovah's Witness communities, making it impossible for them to meet legally. Often the excuses used are property-related, with officials taking full advantage of the opportunities provided by the Religion Law for arbitrary and inconsistent demands. Religious community members often want their names and the names of their communities to remain anonymous for fear of state reprisals.

UZBEKISTAN: Two more prisoners of conscience jailed, one for 7 years

Today (27 May), trauma surgeon Alimardon Sultonov jailed for 7 years in labour camp "for criticising President Mirziyoyev, state-appointed imams .. " Both torture and 2 regime "parliamentarians" were used to try to get him to admit "guilt". On 17 May Muslim former prisoner of conscience Oybek Khamidov sentenced to 5 years' jail. Against published law neither Prosecutor nor "witnesses" were in court. The Judge did not want to talk to Forum 18 about the apparent illegality of the court proceedings, or the jailing.

UZBEKISTAN: Muslim jailed for four extra years, Nursi reader arrested

Muslim prisoner of conscience Khasan Abdirakhimov was on 28 April jailed for four extra years in an ordinary regime labour camp. The Judge told Forum 18 he was jailed "because he put likes under [religious] materials, and shared them with others on the internet". On 11 April Muslim Bobirjon Tukhtamurodov who met others to read theologian Said Nursi's works returned from exile in Russia to Uzbekistan. Despite previous assurances he was arrested, and is being held for six months in pre-trial detention.