UZBEKISTAN: Pentecostal Church Faces Raid, Fines and Registration Denial.

Igor Rotar, Keston News Service, 10 September 2002

Two Pentecostals fined last month for taking part in a church meeting raided by police in July have today (10 September) failed in their attempt to have the sentence revoked, church members have told Keston News Service. The two - who are from a Pentecostal church led by Pastor Shakar Dosov in the Uzbek town of Gulistan, the regional centre of Syrdarya region, 110 kilometres (70 miles) south of Tashkent - had taken their appeal to the Syrdarya regional court, trying to overturn the fines handed down on 18 August by the Gulistan town court. However, the regional court left the original verdict unchanged.

On 18 August, judge Umed Rasulberdiyev had sentenced Pastor Dosov's wife, Tamara Dosova, and the deacon of the church, Sanjar Jabarov, to a fine of 40,000 sums (35 US dollars, 35 Euros or 25 British pounds at the street exchange rate) under article 240 (breaking the law on religious organisations) of Uzbekistan's administrative code.

The fines followed a 13 July raid on Pastor Dosov's home, where the believers were meeting, by 15 officials from the regional procuracy, the regional department of justice and the police. Police officers searched the house and confiscated religious literature belonging to the pastor. The police wrote down the names of all those participating in the meeting, and took statements from them. Pastor Dosov himself was away from home at the time of the meeting.

Judge Rasulberdiyev defended the fines on the two church members. He told Keston on 6 September by telephone from Gulistan that he had handed down the sentences because the Pentecostal community was not registered, and that therefore "under Uzbek law it had no right to hold religious meetings".

However, Pastor Dosov told Keston by telephone on 5 September that their community had already tried to gain registration three times, but that "the authorities simply did not consider our applications, and did not even manage to send us an official refusal". Jabarov told Keston the same day that on 21 August he and Tamara Dosova had once again tried to submit documents for registration at the department of justice of Syrdarin region, but "the first deputy chief of the department of justice, Obomurad Isakulov, simply tore up our documents, saying that we had come on the wrong day".

On 5 September, Keston telephoned the first deputy head of the department of justice of Syrdarya region, Zikirilo Abduvahidov. Curiously, at the start of the conversation Abduvahidov denied knowing the Dosovs and the other Pentecostals (although Keston had been reliably informed that this official had taken part in the search of Pastor Dosov's home on 13 July). However, when Keston stated that it had information that the Protestants' documents, which were necessary for registration of a religious community, had been torn up at the regional justice department, Abduvahidov suddenly remembered the case. "No-one tore up their documents - that is downright slander," he declared. "They have not once submitted documents for registration as a religious community, and have only once come to see me for advice. There has been no law-breaking on our part." He maintained that "unlawful religious meetings" were being held in Dosov's home. "We had to stop them, because their community is not registered."

Dosov told Keston that the church is continuing to seek registration in accordance with the law. "We are trying to fight for our rights. According to Uzbekistan's constitution, every one has the right to profess any religion." (END)