Monday, June 20, 2005
By BosNewsLife News Center
TASHKENT/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)-- Christian Nail Kalinkin of Uzbekistan's embattled Baptist leaning Bethany Church in the capital Tashkent was believed to be in jail Saturday, June 18, after he was sentenced to 15 days in prison last week for "illegally" teaching his faith, a human rights groups said, citing Protestant sources.
The news agency of Forum 18 said the teacher's wiife Marina was fined 68 US dollars, a huge amount in the impoverished former Soviet republic.
In addition "two members" of the Bethany Protestant Church "have already been punished for "illegally" teaching their faith, while six others – including the pastor Nikolai Shevchenko - are due to face trial at an unknown date for leading an unregistered religious organization," said Forum 18 News Service (F18News).
Reports of the persecution came just days after confirmation that Uzbek security forces raided the Sunday worship service on June 12 and briefly detained the six people. Plain clothes police stormed the building of the Bethany Church, which is has been prevented from registration by Uzbekistan's authorities, church sources and human rights groups said.
On Friday, June 17, the court once more delayed hearing the church's appeal against the authorities decision to block registration, F18News said.
PASTOR IN PRISON?
Pastor Shevchenko and fellow-church leader Sergei Khripunov could face a prison term because they have already been sentenced under the administrative code for "unlawful" religious activity.
Other Protestant churches are also being targeted by the authorities. "Leaders of another Protestant church in Tashkent have been interrogated and threatened since mid-May, with 18 armed riot police raiding the home of one church leader. In Angren near Tashkent, the leader of a registered Pentecostal church was fined 39 US dollars," F18News said.
Human rights organization have suggested the measures are part of a government-led campaign against religious groups, following recent massive protests against autocratic president Islam Karimov, in which up to 1,000 people died.
RELIGIOUS GROUPS PERSECUTED
F18News said earlier it had learned from church sources in the uprising's centre in Fergana Valley, that "harsh government repression will worsen the situation for all faiths." Muslims as well as Protestants, Jehovah's Witnesses and Hare Krishna devotees are among those targeted, news reports said.
Last month the increasingly isolated President Karimov traveled to China where he was described as "an old friend of the Chinese people" by Chinese President Hu Jintao, despite mounting international pressure for the Uzbek leader to step down.
Karimov, who has been accused of ruling the former Soviet state for 15 years with an iron fist, has made clear he will not allow revolutions like those in neighboring Kyrgyzstan and earlier in Georgia and Ukraine. (Witn BosNewsLife Research and reports from Uzbekistan)