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Uzbekistan : Pastor’s Verdict Documents Extensive State Controls

3/27/06 Uzbekistan (Forum 18 News) The written verdict on Protestant pastor Dmitry Shestakov, who has been sentenced to four years internal exile, gives a snapshot of how state control of Uzbekistan ‘s religious communities operates. The verdict indicates how state agencies – hokimat (local administration), the mahalla (town district) committees, the police, public prosecutor’s office, courts and expert witnesses – work together to control and suppress religious communities.
In the case of Shestakov’s Full Gospel congregation, the verdict also reveals official obsession over the ethnic affiliation and social background of those attending the church. One state agency not mentioned is the National Security Service (NSS) secret police, although it was heavily involved in the case from the start. The verdict especially highlights the key role of the committee of the mahalla, the urban district into which towns and cities are divided. Although ostensibly elected and self-governing, mahalla committees are in practice instruments of top-down control.