Monday 10 January 2000
UZBEK POLICE TERRORISE BAPTIST PRESBYTER AFTER STUDENT
LEAVES FOR FOREIGN STUDY

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

A Baptist presbyter in the Uzbek capital Tashkent was detained and
subjected to threats of violence last weekend after a member of the
same church went to study at a religious college in the Moldovan
capital Chisinau. However, in other Baptist news from Uzbekistan, the
church in Akhangaran has succeeded in gaining registration while
pressure from the government's Committee for Religious Affairs in
Tashkent may succeed in overriding obstruction from the local
authorities to registration of the Baptist church in Urgench.

The Union of Evangelical Christians/Baptists of Central Asia told
Keston News Service from Tashkent on 21 December that RINAT
KHAIBULLIN, the presbyter of the Baptist church in the Yunusabad
district of Tashkent, was detained by the militia (police) on 18
December and held at the Yunusabad district militia station, where he
was subjected to `crude psychological pressure'. The Union reports
that `militia officers subjected him to the most terrible punishments'
because a member of the congregation - an ethnic Uzbek - had gone to
study at the religious college in Chisinau. `They accused Khaibullin
of organising the training of terrorists abroad.' The presbyter was
subsequently released, but the investigation of his case is reportedly
continuing.

`It must be admitted,' the Union told Keston, `that under the cover of
religion, young people from Uzbekistan are often sent abroad, where
they are indeed trained for terrorist activity. But to lay such
charges against members of Baptist communities is absurd.' The Union
doubts that the militia is in a position to understand the differences
between different religious groups. But the Union's main complaint
against the militia in this case is the `unrestrained crudeness and
lack of control, which is well-known to everyone and which arouses
widespread indignation'.

However, the Union reported progress in the registration of two of its
local churches. The church in Akhangaran, a town south of Tashkent,
received registration on 21 December after a long battle (see KNS 8
December 1999). It had submitted its latest registration application
three months earlier. According to the registration regulations
enacted in 1998, the Ministry of Justice should rule on registration
applications within one month, although this can be extended to three
months if `clarification' is needed. The church's pastor, RINAT
FAZLIYEV, had previously received an administrative punishment for
leading the church. `However, thanks be to God, all this is now in the
past,' the Union declared.

The Union is also hopeful of progress over the registration
application submitted by its church in the town of Urgench in
southwestern Uzbekistan, thanks to the positive intervention of the
Committee for Religious Affairs in Tashkent. The Khorezm region
Department of Justice in Urgench had refused to process the
application and in early December had given the local Baptist church
`a couple of days' to correct what they said were inadequacies in its
registration application and resubmit the paperwork (see KNS 10
December 1999). The Department of Justice had demanded that the church
find new premises to meet, declaring that its current meeting place
was unacceptable. In the wake of the refusal, the Baptist Union
leadership wrote to the Committee for Religious Affairs in Tashkent
calling on it to take 'urgent and effective measures' to resolve the
problems in Urgench. 'As a result, an official of the Committee for
Religious Affairs, BEGZOD KADYROV, declared that the church's
documents are to be returned again to the Department of Justice in
Urgench,' the Union told Keston. 'He gave an assurance that the church
will be registered.' The Urgench church, which is led by Pastor OLEG
VADER, had submitted its latest application back in September. An
official at the Department of Justice in Urgench had refused to
discuss the case with Keston on 10 December, but Kadyrov had told
Keston that his Committee was looking to resolve the problems.

It is not clear if the Union's Bethany congregation recently formed in
a suburb of Tashkent, which was raided by the law enforcement agencies
on Sunday 5 December, has applied for registration. The church, which
is led by Pastor NIKOLAI SHEVCHENKO, was banned by the local
authorities from meeting. (END)


Monday 10 January 2000
NEW ALLEGATIONS OF TORTURE IN UZBEKISTAN

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

One month after Uzbekistan was considered by the United Nations'
Committee Against Torture in Geneva (to which Keston Institute
submitted a report documenting a number of recent cases of torture),
there are new allegations of torture by Uzbek law enforcement officers
against a group of young Baptists, one of them aged just 16. In a 19
December statement passed to Keston News Service by the Friedensstimme
Mission in Germany, YELENA VINOKUROVA, the mother of two of the
alleged victims, detailed the events surrounding the torture,
including what she described as `merciless beating'. She called on the
Procurator General U. KHUDAIKULOV and the president ISLAM
KARIMOV to
`take measures to protect our children from arbitrary treatment by
officers of the law enforcement agencies'. It is not clear why the
militia (police) singled out this group of young Baptists for
maltreatment.

Responding to Keston's enquiry about these latest allegations,
DJAMSHID MUTALOV, first secretary of the Uzbek embassy in London, said
on 21 December that the embassy would not be in a position to respond
as it has `no documentation' on these allegations. Keston then faxed
Vinokurova's statement to the embassy. The embassy failed to come back
with a response later on 21 December, despite follow-up telephone
calls.

According to Vinokurova, two of her sons, 18-year-old NIKOLAI and
16-year-old YEVGENI VINOKUROV, were returning to their home in
Tashkent
with friends on 16 December from the town of Sary-Agach. While they
were passing through Keles at mid-morning they were stopped by the
militia, who took their identity documents and brought them to the
local militia station. `They handed over the children to officers of
the criminal investigation department for investigation. Senior
lieutenant K. MUKHAMEDJANOV conducted the investigation. The children
were beaten mercilessly.' When Yevgeni told the officers that he was a
minor and requested that he be allowed to contact his parents to let
them know where he was `they mocked and beat him'. Musical instruments
the group had with them were used to beat Nikolai and one of his
friends over the head. The young people were reportedly made to do the
splits. They were given nothing even to drink all day.

Concerned that the group had failed to arrive safely in Tashkent,
Yelena Vinokurova spent most of the day telephoning the militia to try
to find out what had happened to them. The militia would not allow her
into her local militia station. It was only at 10 p.m. that evening
that the group were released from the militia station in Keles. `We
found the children on the street without their documents,' Yelena
Vinokurova reports.

As a result of the maltreatment by the militia, Vinokurova reports
that Yevgeni, who `had been beaten most of all', coughs continuously
and has light injuries. An x-ray taken on 18 December revealed a crack
to the third rib on the right. Nikolai is suffering from head wounds.
Another member of the group, RUSLAN KARIMOV, has a broken lip and his
thorax still hurts.

Determined to get to the bottom of the incident, Yelena Vinokurova
travelled to Keles on 17 December to investigate. However, she
received no `coherent reply' to all her questions. The head of the
Keles militia station, militia colonel R. I. ISROILOV, told her he had
only just got to work that day. The deputy head, Major U. BEKCHANOV,
was very rude, treating her to a lecture on how difficult the work of
the law enforcement agencies was and how she was disturbing this work.
`They refused to say who had done the beating, referring to their lack
of knowledge of their fellow officers.' Mukhamedjanov, who had led the
`investigation', refused point blank to talk to her. `Major B. ADYLOV,
who was present when my children were brought in and interrogated,
likewise knows nothing. He does not even know that they were beaten
although he was present.'

Yelena Vinokurova notes that the young Baptists offered no resistance
to the militia and were not armed.

In her statement, addressed to the procurator general and the
president, Vinokurova reminds them that she was one of a number of
Baptist mothers who complained to them about maltreatment of their
children in the wake of a militia raid on 10 October on the Baptist
church in the town of Karshi. The church was celebrating its harvest
festival when the raid took place and Nikolai was among the children
maltreated (see KNS 15 October 1999). `We received no reply,' she
notes. `This has remained unpunished. Now the events have been
repeated, this time in Tashkent.'

The Vinokurov family belongs to a congregation affiliated with the
Council of Evangelical Christians/Baptists, a group that rejected
state registration during the Soviet era and was heavily persecuted.
Congregations of the Council - which maintains no links with the Union
of Evangelical Christians/Baptists of Central Asia - refuse even to
apply for registration in Uzbekistan. At a meeting on 1 December at
the State Committee for Religious Affairs in Tashkent, three Council
leaders told CRA official PULAT BABAMAKHMADOV that the position
remained unchanged, despite the CRA's arguments that they should apply
for registration (see KNS 8 December 1999).

The torture of the group of young Baptists in Keles is further
confirmation that the Uzbek authorities have failed to stamp out
malpractice by the country's law enforcement agencies. As a party to
the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman
or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Convention against Torture),
Uzbekistan submitted its first periodic report to the UN Committee
Against Torture (UN reference: CAT/C/32/Add.3), which considered it at
a hearing in Geneva in November. Keston Institute submitted its own
report for consideration by the Committee, `Torture of Religious
Believers in Uzbekistan' (distributed on Keston News Service 16
November 1999). The maltreatment of the Baptist children in Karshi was
among the cases highlighted in Keston's report.

Unfortunately, at the hearings the Committee against Torture failed to
probe the answers to its questions given by the Uzbek government
delegation and failed to raise specific cases of torture documented in
NGO reports, including that of Keston Institute. In its Conclusions
and Recommendations (CAT/C/23/7) of 19 November, the Committee noted
that Uzbekistan's report was three years late, but praised it for its
`frankness and exhaustiveness'. It also commended `the readiness of
the [Uzbek government] delegation to enter into a dialogue with the
Committee'. Nevertheless, despite the inadequacies of the hearing, in
its Conclusions the Committee did raise several serious points of
concern, including the lack of provision in Uzbek law to prosecute
those guilty of inflicting torture at the instigation of a law
enforcement officer, the low level of conviction on charges of torture
despite the high number of complaints, the failure to apply in
practice a Supreme Court ruling rendering inadmissible in court
evidence extracted under torture and the failure in practice of courts
to respect the principle of the presumption of innocence. Uzbekistan's
next report under the Convention against Torture is due to be
submitted in October 2000. (END)

(c) Keston Institute 1999