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UZBEKISTAN: “Let him pay the fine and we’ll return the car”

Two Baptist families in Uzbekistan were fined in October 2012 for religious activity, but refused to pay them. Over a year later – after the legal time period for a penalty to be imposed had expired – two Uzbeki bailiffs went to the homes of these Baptists, confiscating private property in the absence of those who were initially given the fine. When pressed, one of the bailiffs admitted the seizure had been illegal, but dismissed its importance: “Yes, we were late with the confiscation, but so what?”

By Mushfig Bayram

5/9/2014 Uzbekistan (Forum 18) – Uzbekistan insists – in defiance of its international human rights obligations – that only registered religious communities are allowed to hold meetings for worship or to teach religion even to their own members. Fines and other punishments are frequently handed down to those who exercise their freedom of religion or belief in ways the authorities regard as “illegal.”

Samarkand City Court Bailiffs Sadriddin Salahuddinov and Mamur Yuldashev seized property from two family homes of local members of a Council of Churches Baptist congregation fined in October 2012. Council of Churches Baptists refuse to seek state permission before they meet for worship.

On 26 March, the two bailiffs came to the private home of Alisher Abdullayev… [and] confiscated a vacuum cleaner, electric heater and mobile phone. “These are indispensable for the everyday life of the Abdullayevs, who have six minor children,” the Baptists [who reported to Forum 18] lamented.

The bailiffs seized the household items in the absence of Abdullayev, and did not provide a copy of the official report of the confiscation to Abdullayev’s wife, Oksana Abdullayeva.

On 7 April, the same two bailiffs came to the home of Veniamin Nemirov in his absence… [and] seized the family car, a 1987 Russian-built Moskvich.

“What the bailiffs did was illegal,” Nemirov [told] Forum 18 from Samarkand on 6 May. He pointed out that the one year time limitation to pay the fines expired in October 2013, and any confiscation or other penalty for non-payment must be given during that period.

Bailiff Salahuddinov insisted to Forum 18 from Samarkand on 8 May that the confiscation was “lawful.” “Though we confiscated the car, it is still in Nemirov’s name. Let him pay the fine and we’ll return the car to him.” Asked why he and his colleague Yuldashev confiscated Nemirov’s and Abdullayev’s property after the time limit had expired, bailiff Salahuddinov contradicted his earlier claims that the seizures were lawful. “We and our colleagues can’t keep up with the volume of work, so we were a bit late with these confiscations,” he admitted to Forum 18.

Asked why the authorities took such harsh measures to punish them, Salahuddinov told Forum 18: “What’s the problem here? They violated the law, and that’s why they are punished.”

Asked why he, a state official, finds no problem with violating legal procedures but justifies punishment given to individuals simply for praying and practicing their faith, Salahuddinov admitted: “Yes, we were late with the confiscation, but so what?”

[Full Story]