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UZBEKISTAN: “To prevent illegal religious materials”

In the Khamza District of Uzbekistan, police have yet to comply with a court order to return confiscated Christian literature. Pastor Mikhail Neizvestny has already paid a fine for the confiscated materials, which were taken from his home by ordinary and NSS secret police collaborating for the raid. Police and court officials gave little to no response when contacted.

By Mushfig Bayram

5/13/2014 Uzbekistan (Forum 18) – The authorities in Tashkent’s Khamza District, despite a 26 December 2013 order from the District Court, have still not returned religious literature to the Full Gospel Church. It had been confiscated from Pastor Mikhail Neizvestny, who was… fined for “illegally storing” the literature.

In defiance of its international human rights obligations, Uzbekistan imposes a strict censorship regime imposing severe limitations on access to religious literature, including the reading of the Bible and Koran in private homes and arbitrary destruction of literature found in frequent raids. Courts frequently order confiscated religious literature – including Muslim, Christian and Jehovah’s Witness literature – to be destroyed.

On 26 December 2013, Judge Mukhtarama Turgunova of Tashkent’s Khamza District Court ordered the transfer of religious material confiscated from… Pastor Mikhail Neizvestny to his Church. At the same time, Neizvestny was fined on 19 December… 10 times the minimum monthly wage, or 961,050 Soms (about… 400 US Dollars)…

The verdict, which Forum 18 has a copy of, states that [the Khamza District Police] and NSS secret police “detected that citizen Neizvestny, pastor of a Church, kept in his home various religious materials.” They then confiscated 32 Christian books, 4 magazines, 72 DVD and CD discs, 10 booklets, 2 notebooks, and 250 leaflets.

The authorities have still not transferred the confiscated material to the Church. The continued refusal to return the material is despite the Pastor paying the fine on 6 January 2014 – Forum 18 has seen a stamped copy of the payment receipt – and the Church sending two letters to Khamza District Prosecutor’s Office and District Police asking for the books’ return. No reply to the letters has been received.

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