UZBEKISTAN: State Security Officer Accuses Baptist of Forgery.

Igor Rotar, Keston News Service, 24 September 2001

An officer of the National Security Service (SNB, the former KGB) has accused the leader of the Baptist church in the town of Gazalkent in Tashkent region of forging the vast majority of signatures on the church's stalled registration application. However, only one of the required 100 church members on the application turned out to be ineligible to sign as she was not an Uzbek citizen, Keston News Service has learnt, a fact the Baptist Union does not dispute. 'Why is the country's security service involved in such an insignificant, formal issue?' the Baptist Union has asked.

On 24 August, a captain of the armed forces appeared at the apartment of Alikhan Kiev, the Gazalkent church leader, introducing himself as an official of the town's military registration and enlistment office, Dmitri Pitirimov of the Baptist Union told Keston from Tashkent on 18 September. The captain said Kiev was being called immediately to the military office. He did not produce any formal notice and said he had a personal order from the military office.

Once there, Kiev found out that the military officials did not have any business with him, and that two people in civilian clothes were waiting for him. They introduced themselves as officials of the Bostanlyk regional department of the SNB and asked Kiev to accompany them to their office building. There, an SNB officer, who introduced himself as Abdujalil Ishmatov, began to make accusations against Kiev, saying that in the list of the founding members of the church submitted for approval to the khokimiyat (the local administration), there were people who did not hold Uzbek citizenship. Following a more detailed scrutiny of the file, the Baptist Union told Keston, it turned out that just one woman held Russian citizenship and was thus ineligible to sign the registration application. Ishmatov demanded that Kiev should write a statement explaining this and also that he should personally write his life story.

Ishmatov also wanted to know why people in Britain were taking an interest in the registration of the Gazalkent church and making telephone calls (an apparent reference to Keston's earlier enquiries), demanding to know who exactly was sending information abroad. 'Ishmatov is apparently unaware that the Baptist Union is an officially registered religious headquarters that is a member of international unions and that has the constitutional right to exchange information with juridical and private persons, whether within the country or abroad,' the Baptist Union told Keston.

Contacted by Keston by telephone on 21 September, Ishmatov did not deny that he had questioned Kiev. 'Kiev fabricated around 90 percent of the signatures. It appeared that he had deceitfully collected the signatures of householders who did not even know that they were signing up as members of a founding church group,' he claimed. 'As to whether I asked Kiev who has been sending information abroad, that bears no relation to reality.'

However, the president of the Baptist Union, Pavel Peychev, rejected Ishmatov's claims. 'It's amazing that SNB officers are not ashamed to distribute throughout the world information that, to say the least, does not correspond with reality,' he told Keston by telephone on 21 September. 'This is the second time we have tried to register our church in Gazalkent and naturally, we check the list of members of the founding group carefully so that it meets all the demands of Uzbek law.'

The Gazalkent Baptist church applied for registration - unsuccessfully – in 1999. After it was refused it applied again in January of this year (see KNS 26 March 2001). It is still waiting for the Gazalkent khokimiyat to respond to its application. (END)