Uzbekistan: “The Court decided so”
By Mushfig Bayram
8/19/2010 Uzbekistan (Forum 18) – Uzbekistan continues punishing peaceful religious activity and imprisoning prisoners of conscience, Forum 18 News Service has learned. Three Muslims have been given five years in prison, with one Protestant being given 10 days in jail. Six Muslims have been fined 70 times the minimum monthly salary, and one Protestant has been fined almost 10 times the minimum monthly salary. Defending his decision to punish the nine Muslims, Judge Bakhtiyor Rustamov told Forum 18 that the defendants read the works of Said Nursi, which are banned in Uzbekistan. When asked why long prison terms were imposed, Rustamov stated that “I cannot tell you over the phone, it’s a long case”. Judge Bahadyr Shahanov would not say why he punished the Protestants, but said it was an administrative penalty. “The Court decided so,” he said. When asked why the jailed Protestant, Rustam Kalabayev, was not given a copy of the verdict, Judge Shahanov claimed that “he has signed a paper that he received it.” Kalabayev denies this claim, and his fellow-believers point out that the conduct of the trial breached Uzbek legal procedures.