Uzbekistan Jails Baptists, Threatens Church

Monday, August 9, 2010

By Marshall Ramsey

Tashkent, Uzbekistan (Worthy News)-- Police in Uzbekistan jailed ten Baptists for three to five days, and fining them 80 times the monthly minimum wage, according to a religious rights group, Worthy News learned on Monday, August 9.

Forum 18 said that Uzbekistan continues short-term jailing of prisoners of conscience and large fines against Christians meeting together.  Twenty-three people, including small children were detained, after Uzbekistan police raided a house church last week.

House Church Raided

The Baptists from an unregistered church had gathered at the home of Yuriy Garmashev, in Tashkent’s Mirzo-Ulugbek District on July 28, “to celebrate the spiritual birthday of a church member”, according to the Forum 18 report.  “They were involved in nothing illegal, but having tea and spiritual songs.”

During the meeting, the police under Major Ilyos Mustafayev surrounded the house with five cars, and broke into the house church. The police then began “pushing believers forcefully” into the cars while others were “kicked and dragged out of the house,” according to eyewitnesses.

"Three of those who were detained are hearing and speaking impaired, and a detained four-year-old boy was scared by seeing how badly the police treated his mother," according to those arrested.

The police also confiscated two personal Bibles, four songbooks and one violin lesson textbook.

Ten of those detained were released nearly 24 hours later on July 29, after being warned by Uzbek officials.

Judge Detains and Fines House Church Members

On July 29, Judge Shukhat Bakayev of Mirzo-Ulugbek District Criminal Court in Tashkent handed down massive fines and short-term jail sentences to all 13 people brought before the court. The judge ruled all 13 are members of a local unregistered Baptist Church, who refuse to register based on principle.

Yuriy Garmashev was given five days in jail, and nine others -- Nikolay Serin, Gleb Izmestyev, Stanislav Kim, Stanislav Anin, Yevgeni Vinokurov, Davlat Ilakhunov, Dmitri Bilan, Vitali Liner, Nikolai Shaldayev were given three days each.  Sisters Oksana and Yelena Kamyshina, and David Goryachev, were each fined 80 times the minimum monthly salary, or a total of 3,014,000 Soms (11,150 Norwegian Kroner, 1,410 Euros, or 1,860 US Dollars) each.

Church Threatened

On August 5, Forum 18 reported that members of the same church were raided once again on August 4.  According to a witness the police were “more reserved” this time while talking to the leaders of the Church, but “after writing down the leaders’ names – they warned them that they would not leave the church alone.”