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(Forum 18) – In the latest of several attacks on Protestants, Police and National Security Service (NSS) secret police have raided a prayer meeting of the Greater Grace church in Samarkand [Samarqand]. An official claimed to Forum 18 News Service that religious meetings in private homes are illegal. All unregistered religious activity is banned, and those involved face heavy penalties. Begzot Kadyrov, an official of the government’s religious affairs committee, denied to Forum 18 that this violates the right to meet freely for worship with fellow believers, as guaranteed under international human rights agreements that Uzbekistan has signed. Several police officers in the raid told church members that they are Muslims and that there is “no need” for any Christians or members of other faiths in Uzbekistan . A Hungarian present, Jozsef Marian, who is married to an Uzbek, was pressured to write a statement, and threats were made that he would be forced to leave Samarkand . 2004 has seen an increase in raids and fines on those involved in unregistered religious activity, especially on Protestants.