Christian Woman in Uzbekistan Sentenced to Corrective Labor for Owning Religious Literature
UZBEKISTAN: Criminal conviction, fines for meeting at home and carrying Bible
“Sharofat Allamova, a Protestant from Urgench in north-western Uzbekistan, has been given one and half years of corrective labour, after being convicted under criminal charges brought for the ‘illegal production, storage, import or distribution of religious literature’. It has been stated that the NSS secret police compelled witnesses to make false statements against her.”
By Mushfig Bayram
5/21/2013 Uzbekistan (Forum18)-… Sharofat Allamova, a Protestant from north-western Khorezm Region, has been given one and half years of corrective labour after being convicted under criminal charges of the “illegal production, storage, import or distribution of religious literature”, Forum 18 News Service has found. Fines have also been imposed on people for meeting in a private home and having Christian literature, as well as carrying their personal Bible and New Testament.
Religious literature in Uzbekistan is under tight state control. The production and import of literature – including the Koran and the Bible – is strictly controlled, with compulsory prior censorship by the state Religious Affairs Committee. Ownership of religious literature can lead to punishment, as police often allege that literature is being stored for use in “missionary activity”, which is also illegal (see Forum 18’s religious freedom survey of Uzbekistanhttp://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1170).
Allamova, a Protestant from Urgench [Urganch] in the north-western Khorezm Region, was sentenced to one and half years of corrective labour at Urgench City Criminal Court on 11 April. She will be placed in a low-paid state job, her salary being further reduced by having to pay 20 per cent of it to the state during her sentence.
She will only be permitted to travel within Uzbekistan with written state permission, and is banned from leaving the country. It has been stated that the National Security Service (NSS) secret police compelled witnesses to make false statements against Allamova (see below).
Allamova’s conviction under Article 244-3 of the Criminal Code follows two raids on her home in January and being detained for 11 hours. Criminal charges were brought by police as she was in May 2012 convicted of the same “offence” under the Code of Administrative Offences (see F18News 31 January 2013 http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1797).
Judge Makhmud Makhmudov, who handed down the corrective labour sentence, also ordered (in a verdict Forum 18 has seen) the confiscation of books and other material seized in the two raids and of her computer.
Judge Makhmudov’s assistant (who would not give his name) refused to comment on the case. When Forum 18 asked on 16 May why such a serious punishment was given to Allamova, he said that he will convey the question to Judge Makhmudov and asked Forum 18 to wait on the line. He then told Forum 18 that Judge Makhmudov did not wish to talk. Told that the NSS secret police is said to have compelled witnesses to write statements against Allamova, the assistant told Forum 18: “I am only an assistant and I cannot comment”.
Akhmed Sotivoldiyev of the NSS secret police’s Khorezm Department questioned Allamova and family members, “threatening that criminal cases could be fabricated against them”, co-believers told Forum 18 on 3 May. He reportedly told Allamova during the second 16 January raid that “Christians such as her ought to be collected in one place and burned”. Sotivoldiyev wanted to know who Allamova’s relatives and acquaintances are, other information on the life of her and her family, and sources of income.
Sotivoldiyev of the NSS secret police is said to have illegally demanded that Allamova’s acquaintances and the Chair of her mahalla, S. Zaripov, sign police reports accusing her of illegal missionary activity in the Region.
Apart from minor differences, the texts of all three of the witness statements against Allamova are identical. They claim that Allamova visited neighbours in the district to give them English-language titled DVDs called “The Story of Jesus for Children”, as well as packets of sweets and a postcard with the English-language words “Merry Christmas”. Along with these items, she is claimed to have said “May the Lord Jesus save you” to neighbours.
All three neighbours are claimed to have taken the items to mahalla Chair Zaripov, as they thought Allamova’s alleged “actions and words to be suspicious”. Zaripov himself, the Court decision claims, called a residents’ meeting where they discussed the “illegal actions” of Allamova and that she is a “member in an illegal Jesus Christ sect”. Zaripov is then said to have given all the distributed DVDs to the police, who then raided Allamova’s home.