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The right to believe, to worship and witness
The right to change one’s belief or religion
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UZBEKISTAN: "Legally" preventing human rights

Uzbekistan is formalising harsher restriction than those which formally already exist, Forum 18 News Service notes. A new Prevention Law, which enters into legal force on 15 August, automatically places people convicted by the courts on a Preventive Register, subjecting them to a variety of police "preventative measures" for one year or more. Many agencies are able to initiate placing individuals on the Preventive Register, from health care to nature protection agencies, allowing many possibilities for officials to arbitrarily arrange for people to stay on the Register for many years. The Law also gives mahalla committees wide powers to among other things with police "take measures to prevent the activity of unregistered religious organisations". It also "legalises unofficial informers" a legal expert from Tashkent noted to Forum 18. Heavy punishments continue to be imposed on people exercising freedom of religion or belief, a police officer in a recent raid insisting to Forum 18 that people "are allowed to gather and talk about their religion only in their communities' legally-registered addresses, but not outside those buildings or in private homes".

UZBEKISTAN: "To prevent illegal religious materials"

A court in Uzbekistan's capital Tashkent has fined both Grigory Kasparov and his wife Yelena for "illegally storing" Kasparov's Christian books in their private home. This was despite Yelena Kasparova refusing to sign a "confession" police attempted to force from her for this "offence". The verdict in Kasparov's case states that the books were destroyed even before the Court had found Kasparov "guilty" and decided what to do with the books. A court official admitted to Forum 18 News Service that bailiffs destroyed the books, but refused to state whether bailiffs are allowed to do this before a verdict. In another case, the NSS secret police and ordinary police have ignored a court order stating that they must return confiscated books and other material. In the Kasparov case the court verdict states the fine followed "investigation and search operations with the purpose to prevent illegal religious materials". In a very similar recent case, the verdict states that the NSS secret police conducted "an operation .. to identify persons who illegally store religious materials".

UZBEKISTAN: "Let him pay the fine and we'll return the car"

Court bailiffs in Uzbekistan's central Samarkand Region admit they confiscated a car, a vacuum cleaner and other household items from two families beyond the legally-defined deadline. "We and our colleagues can't keep up with the volume of work, so we were a bit late with these confiscations," bailiff Sadriddin Salahuddinov admitted to Forum 18 News Service. The seizures came after the two Baptists refused to pay fines imposed in 2012 to punish them for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief. "Let him pay the fine and we'll return the car to him," the bailiff added about Veniamin Nemirov. Meanwhile, 15 police and other officials raided a church's Sunday meeting for worship in a home in Syrdarya. "When the officials broke in they were preparing a dinner, and getting ready to celebrate the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem," Baptists lamented to Forum 18. Police officer Oybek Turdikulov, who took part in the raid, told Forum 18 that they "received an instruction from above to go to check up on the gathering."

UZBEKISTAN: Another 5 year prison term for sermons in mobile

Nine years after he moved to Russia to find work, Zoirjon Mirzayev was arrested at a Tashkent Region train station on his return to his native Uzbekistan after customs officials found 29 recordings of Muslim sermons in his mobile phone. The Religious Affairs Committee said the recordings were "extremist" and on 8 April Mirzayev received a five-year prison term, according to the verdict seen by Forum 18 News Service. Assistant Prosecutor B. Kamilov, who led the case in court, told Forum 18 "it's the minimum punishment that we could ask the court for". He was unable to say who had banned the sermons as "extremist" and when. "The sentence is not just and Mirzayev's relatives are preparing to file an appeal," human rights defender Surat Ikramov told Forum 18. Uzbek citizen Ikhtiyor Yagmurov was arrested on similar grounds at Tashkent airport and is awaiting trial, but officials refused to tell Forum 18 what charges he faces.

UZBEKISTAN: "Those who accepted other religions may not be buried in same cemetery with Muslims"

In three known cases so far in 2014, local officials have backed local imams who refused to allow non-Muslims to be buried in state-owned cemeteries where their families wished to bury them, Forum 18 News Service has learned. When Protestant Christian Gayrat Buriyev died on 9 April in a village near Uzbekistan's capital Tashkent, relatives sought the assistance of the local Administration chief. But late in the evening he and the Regional Imam supported the local imam, who blocked the burial and "cursed the relatives", Protestants complained to Forum 18. In two cases in Karakalpakstan, officials forced relatives to bury the deceased in a Russian Orthodox cemetery rather than the main cemetery. Kudaybergen Uteniyazov, Head of Muynak District Administration, insisted to Forum 18: "Those who accepted other religions may not be buried in the same cemetery with Muslims." An official of Uzbekistan's Ombudsperson's Office told Forum 18 that cemeteries "belong to the state", but refused to say if the Office will help seek an end to such burial denials.

UZBEKISTAN: Detained for religious materials in electronic devices

Three Tajik transit passengers detained without charge by Uzbek border guards at the same railway station in southern Uzbekistan were freed on 4 February. The border guard who took Tojiddin Latipov off the train told him that an Islamic sermon he had on his mobile phone was in violation of Uzbekistan's Law, Latipov told Forum 18 News Service. Officials questioned him over how long he has been praying and whether he observes fasts. He was freed three days later. A mother and son were held for a month and had their computer seized after officials found a sermon on it. Makhmud (who refused to give his last name), Chief duty customs official at Boldyr station, refused to comment to Forum 18 on why Latipov and the mother and son had been held in custody for having religious materials in electronic devices. Another Tajik citizen is serving a five year sentence for a similar "offence", though his family hopes he will soon be freed under amnesty.

UZBEKISTAN: Seven Muslims amnestied, but ailing Muslim prisoner waits for operation

Relatives of imprisoned Muslim prisoner of conscience Mehrinisso Hamdamova are to ask the authorities to allow her to have an urgent operation on an apparent myoma outside the women's prison where she is being held. Her "stomach is swollen, and she loses consciousness often", they told Forum 18 News Service. Officials refused to discuss her case with Forum 18. Meanwhile, seven of Uzbekistan's many imprisoned Muslims who read the works of the late Turkish theologian Said Nursi were freed under amnesty in February and March. The seven were among three groups of Muslims given long prison sentences in Bukhara in 2009-10.

UZBEKISTAN: Anti-Terrorism Police seize religious literature, tear down religious posters

In two separate raids in early March, Anti-Terrorism Police and other officials seized religious literature from private homes, Forum 18 News Service has learned. In one raid in Uzbekistan's central city of Samarkand, Anti-Terrorism officer Makhmud Nodyrov "tore posters with Scripture texts from the walls, and kept threatening [home owner Veniamin] Nemirov that his home could be taken away from him, and that his children could be expelled from school," Baptists complained to Forum 18. Personal details of the 25 adults and the family's 12 children present after the Baptist congregation's Sunday service were taken. Four church members face administrative punishments. Asked why he tore down posters in Nemirov's home, and why he threatened that Nemirov's children would be expelled from school, officer Nodyrov referred Forum 18 to the Foreign Ministry, and put the phone down.

UZBEKISTAN: Concern over health of prisoners of conscience

Relatives and friends of three Muslim prisoners of conscience in Uzbekistan, jailed for exercising their freedom of religion or belief, have expressed concern to Forum 18 News Service about their state of health. Khayrullo Tursunov and his relatives Mehrinisso and Zulhumor Hamdamova (who are sisters) are all apparently in need of medical treatment. Relatives of the Hamdamova sisters told Forum 18 that "they both feel ill but Mehrinisso's health is worse". Relatives do not know when or even whether the prison authorities will arrange an operation for Mehrinisso. A related case is that of Khayrullo Tursunov, who has been exposed to the potentially fatal disease of tuberculosis (TB). The authorities have claimed to Forum 18 that he is cured – but if so Forum 18 notes this has taken an unusually short length of time. A relative wondered what the authorities' reasons were. "If he did not have TB why was he moved to the TB prison – and if he did why was he moved back to his original prison in such a short time?", the relative asked.

UZBEKISTAN: New Decree gives "legal" basis to existing censorship

Books and other materials encouraging individuals to change their beliefs or which, in the state's opinion, "distort" beliefs are now specifically banned under a sweeping new censorship Decree, Forum 18 News Service notes. The Decree, which came into force on 27 January, gives a "legal" basis for the severe state restrictions on production, sale, distribution and import of religious materials. The Decree contains numerous violations of the conventions the country has under international human rights law promised to implement. Returning pilgrims – such as from Mecca – will have their literature seized for checking. Further punishments for breaking the censorship regime may be introduced. Officials of the state Religious Affairs Committee – which implements the compulsory prior state censorship – and the office of Deputy Prime Minister Adkham Ikramov – who is supervising the Decree's implementation – refused to discuss its provisions with Forum 18.

UZBEKISTAN: Massive fine for Muslim prayer mat, Christian book raid ordered by NSS secret police

A hotel employee in Uzbekistan's capital Tashkent has been fined 150 times the minimum monthly salary after a Muslim prayer mat was found at the hotel during an early January search by the authorities. A hotel employee, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of state reprisals, confirmed the fine to Forum 18 News Service on 5 February. Also, on 20 January the NSS secret police with the police Anti-Terrorism Department raided a private home in Tashkent. As well as hundreds of Christian books and other materials being confiscated from Natalya Gaiyer and ordered destroyed, she was fined three times the minimum monthly salary. The officer who led the raid told Forum 18 that the raid and confiscations "were ordered by Tashkent police Anti-Terrorism Department and the NSS secret police". Judge Davron Narbayev claimed to Forum 18 that he was not authorised to comment on his own decision. He also would not say why he fined someone for possessing legally purchased books, which he ordered to be destroyed.

UZBEKISTAN: Art lessons, talking constitute "illegal" religious activity?

Rozalina Abyazova from Tashkent Region is trying to challenge in Uzbekistan's Supreme Court a fine handed down for allegedly involving her 12-year-old son in "illegal" religious education. Her petition, seen by Forum 18 News Service, points out that her son was only taking art lessons with two women who happen to be members of a Protestant congregation. The women and five other parents were also fined. Supreme Court officials refused to discuss the case or tell Forum 18 when the complaint will be heard. Elsewhere, three Protestant women in Fergana Region of eastern Uzbekistan are similarly preparing to challenge fines given to them by a local court merely for discussing their faith with each other. The NSS secret police referred the case to court alleging that the three women "illegally taught the Christian religion to each other". And a Protestant from Tashkent Region has been denied an exit visa.