Religious Freedom Remains Under Attack in Uzbekistan

Religious intolerance is growing in Uzbekistan as recent reports of the confiscation of religious material from private homes appears to not have been isolated incidents, but rather an organized and deliberate campaign to limit religious freedom.

In Uzbekistan, there are reports that police continue to violate the country's repression policy as confiscations of privately-owned religious books from private homes become more widespread, according to reports from Norway's Forum 18 News Service.

Local reports also indicate that State-controlled television has advised people that they should obtain and read only state-authorized religious books. They also issued a warning aimed at those who they believe are trying to "misuse people's interest in reading books."

In addition to the confiscation of various religious texts including Bibles, there have also been accusations of violations of due legal process, which include denial of legal representation, misrepresentation of a defendant's plea and verdicts not being provided within the timeframe established by local laws.

Police confiscated one Bible from a home and reportedly stated that the books would be sent to the Religious Affairs Committee for analysis. The owner of the books would be fined, according to Forum 18 News Service.

Sources inside the country have also revealed that numerous people have been detained after religious texts were found in their homes after police raids. Once the religious books are confiscated the owner is then issued a fine.

In one of those cases, Roman Nizamutdinov, a Baptist, was fined the equivalent of 40 times the minimum monthly salary under the Code of Administrative Violations' Article 184-2 for illegally storing religious books in his home, according to Forum 18.

Another case involved Artur and Irina Alpayev, who attend an unregistered Baptist Church and whose house was raided. During the raid police confiscated an "illegal" Bible and issued the couple a fine, which they have refused to pay.

Reports also indicate that since they have refused to pay the fine they have had other household items confiscated.

Senior Navoi Regional Court Bailiff Laziz Isayev instructed his men to "leave only one spoon, one mug and one mattress for each member of the family," Alpayev told Forum 18.