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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: "A disguised old Criminal Code with no real changes"

Members of religious communities and human rights defenders criticise the draft new Criminal Code due to come into force on 1 January 2022. This would continue to punish those who exercise freedom of religion or belief without state permission. A "disguised old Criminal Code with no real changes", Protestants complain. Muslims describe it as "our government's old tricks". Solmaz Akhmedova of the Human Rights Alliance noted that "they just made some decorative changes, and used less religious terminology."

UZBEKISTAN: 7 prisoners of conscience jailed for between 11 and 4 years

Seven Muslim men who met in Tashkent to discuss Islam were in January 2021 transferred to various prisons to begin jail terms of between 11 and four years. Nine men were given restricted freedom sentences. "It is no use for us to make another appeal as nothing will change," a relative told Forum 18. In this and other cases there are credible claims of torture and the use of agent provocateurs to bring false charges.

UZBEKISTAN: Torture, prayer bans, but "No problems in Uzbekistan's prisons"?

Prisoners suffer bans on praying the namaz and reading the Koran, torture for praying the namaz or fasting during Ramadan, denials of medical care, failure to carry out medical treatment families have paid for, and inadequate and insanitary conditions. "Why did the authorities punish him simply for praying the namaz? What day and age do we live in?" one tortured prisoner's relatives asked. "There are no problems in Uzbekistan's prisons today", claimed Aziza Kenzhayeva of the Interior Ministry's Chief Directorate for the Enforcement of Punishments.

UZBEKISTAN: Five years jail for defending Muslims' freedom of religion and belief

After repeatedly defending Muslims' freedom of religion and belief, including demonstrating outside President Shavkat Mirziyoyev's residence, Tulkun Astanov has been jailed for five years. A state report accused him of following "sources of biased news such as Radio Free Europe", and publishing "unsubstantiated and exaggerated" information. Prisoner of conscience Astanov is being banned in jail from reading the Koran and praying the namaz.

UZBEKISTAN: Extremism charges against Samarkand Shia Muslim?

The Samarkand police "Struggle with Extremism and Terrorism Department" has opened a case against Shia Muslim Rashid Ibrahimov, twice questioning him without a written summons. Officers sent material from his phone, including texts of sermons, to the Religious Affairs Committee for "expert analysis". "Depending on that, they may bring administrative or criminal charges against him," a source told Forum 18. Officials are hostile to Shia Islam. Human rights defender Doctor Alimardon Sultonov is challenging his 14-month restricted freedom sentence.

UZBEKISTAN: Registration applications denied, officials refuse to explain why

Shia Muslim, Jehovah's Witness, and Protestant religious communities have all had recent applications to exist refused. In many cases the excuse used has been refusals by local authorities to provide documents as part of the complex, time-consuming and expensive application process. In some cases registration applications have led to reprisals, such as police demands that Protestant Christians renounce their faith.

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 Akhmedov. Police confirmed to Forum 18 that this was the reason for the raid. Dr Sultonov is known for publicly discussing Muslims' freedom of religion and belief, and had questioned why local authorities publicly stated that there were no coronavirus cases when he had evidence that this is not the reality.

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.