Uzbekistan Officials Violate Religious Freedom Laws, Confiscate Bibles

There are reports of government officials in Uzbekistan arresting and fining people who are found to have various religious texts in their possession, which goes against the country's law protecting religious freedom.

In Uzbekistan, there currently several cases of the authorities going against the countries repression policy due to the increase in confiscations of privately-owned religious books from homes during police raids, according to reports from Norway's Forum 18 News Service.

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.

In one particular instance, government officials mistook Protestant books and teachings with that of Jehovah Witness' books and teachings, which are banned in some parts of the country.

"Jehovah's Witnesses are registered in Uzbekistan only in Chirchik, in the Tashkent Region, and therefore the activity of the members of the said organization in other territories of Uzbekistan, including Navoi Region is unlawful … use of the given literature outside Chirchik is illegal," according to court documents.

Local reports revealed that police confiscated one Bible from a home Uzbekistan and authorities 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.

There have also been sources inside the country that revealed 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, as reported by Forum 18 News Service.