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UZBEKISTAN: Raid, beating, literature destruction – but fine annulled
ICC Note:
Two defenseless Christian women in Uzbekistan had their home raided and their religious paraphernalia confiscated from them. They were beaten in their homes and then “dragged into a minivan” by police who took them to the police station. Things went from bad to worse when the police tried to force them to sign documents that they were choosing to accept Islam. When they refused, the police threatened and beat them. The women were forced to sign documents stating that “125 religious books were found in their home, the names of which were dictated” to them by the police. The women were later released but were each fined 20 times the minimum monthly wage. Their court case lasted all of five minutes. It is clear that these women were abused by their government, denied due process and refused the basic human right of freedom of religion.
By Mushfig Bayram
09/11/2012 Uzbekistan (Forum 18)-…
Fines on three religious believers have been overturned after the intervention of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Uzbekistan, Metropolitan Vikenty (Morar), Forum 18 News Service has learnt. However, a mother and her disabled daughter in the Uzbek capital Tashkent, Valentina and Natalya Pleshakova, were still found guilty and received an official warning. Police have not returned confiscated Bibles and prayer books they seized in a raid (the court ordered them destroyed). Nor have police explained why officers beat Natalya Pleshakova, who is disabled, or tried to pressure her to adopt Islam. A hostile article about them and the third Christian, Muhabbat Mamatkulova, appeared on a state-backed website.
The Pleshakovas attend the Uspensky (Assumption) Orthodox cathedral in Tashkent, where Valentina Pleshakova “washes the bodies of the deceased, and reads psalms to earn a little extra to supplement her meagre 100,000 Soms monthly pension to take care of herself and her sick daughter who cannot work,” sources told Forum 18.
State-backed local media also reported raids and fines in August on other religious communities – including on Dostabod-based Grace Protestant Church and its Pastor Sergei Rychagov – with unsympathetic portrayals of the communities’ activity. Uzbek State Television on 22 August also warned its viewers to read only state-authorised religious books (see forthcoming F18News article).
On 6 August, police raided the home in Tashkent’s Mirabad District of Valentina Pleshakova, a 53-year-old pensioner, and her 26-year-old daughter Natalya Pleshakova, who is disabled since childhood,, an independent Uzbek news agency, reported on 23 August.
At 4 pm “six strong men with sticks and bats” in plain clothes led by the local Police officer “broke” the gate to the yard of Pleshakovas’ home and broke into their home, they told Uznews. “When Natalya, who is disabled since childhood, and who walks with the help of crutches, asked them who these persons were, one of the men gave her a blow, and then the men dragged her to the kitchen in the flat.”
While the men turned the home “upside-down, and collected icons, Bibles, Russian Orthodox calendars and prayer books into one pile,” the local police officer “filmed Natalya and her mother Valentina, who were trying to fend off the shower of blows from the men, trying to catch them say something in reaction to the blows and foul language from the men,” Uznews reported.

Pressure to change faith
Uznews reports that at Mirabad Police Station, Officer Aziz and other officers pressured Natalya Pleshakova to accept Islam saying that the Muslim faith is “better than Christianity, that a married man can marry them, because men are allowed to have four wives.” When the Pleshakovas refused to write such statements the police officers threatened and beat them.
Then the police officers promised the Pleshakovas that they would be released, and compelled them to write a statement that “125 religious books were found in their home, the names of which were dictated by Officer Aziz”. The Pleshakovas say they heard the titles “for the first time”. The “exhausted” women were released at 1.30 am on 7 August, nearly ten hours after the police first arrived at their home.

After being freed in the early hours of 7 August, the two women were summoned later that day to Tashkent’s Mirabad District Court. Judge Begzot Ermatov found Valentina and Natalya Pleshakova guilty of violating several Articles of the Code of Administrative Offences: Article 184-2 (“Illegal production, storage, or import into Uzbekistan with a purpose to distribute or distribution of religious materials by physical persons”); Article 194, Part 1 (“Failure to carry out the lawful demands of a police officer or other persons carrying out duties to guard public order”); and Article 195 (“Resisting the orders of police officers”).
They were each fined 20 times the minimum monthly wage, 1,447,100 Soms (4,270 Norwegian Kroner, 580 Euros or 740 US Dollars at the inflated official exchange rate).

Still guilty on appeal
Both Valentina and Natalya Pleshakova appealed against the fines. The two women’s case was taken up by the head of the Russian Orthodox Uzbek diocese, Metropolitan Vikenty. A member of the Orthodox community in Tashkent, who preferred not to be identified for fear of State reprisals, told Forum 18 on 6 September that the Metropolitan wrote to the State Religious Affairs Committee and to Sayora Rashidova, Uzbekistan’s Human Rights Ombudsperson.
On 23 August, sixteen days later after the first decision, Judge V. Tsvetkov of Tashkent’s Criminal Court with a decision, which Forum 18 has seen, cancelled the fines. The Court, however, upheld the part of the decision that the Pleshakovas “did violate” the Religion Law, and the lower court “correctly qualified the actions of the violators”. Taking into account that the daughter is a disabled person and that the mother is a pensioner, it deemed it possible to confine the decision to a warning to each of them.
The appeal court decision also upheld the lower court decision that 125 religious publications confiscated from them should be destroyed.
Why the raid and fines?
The Pleshakovas told Uznews that they believe the local authorities are trying to find ways to confiscate their two homes and that the 6 August raid and court proceedings may have been related to that. Although the homes are “not in good shape” but because of the “location where they are situated” the two properties may be worth “tens of thousands of [US] dollars.”
The women said that in late August, inspectors from the State Sanitary and Epidemiology Service came to conduct an inspection. They said that they are expecting new fines from the Inspectors now.

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