KESTON NEWS SERVICE, 11.00, 24 November 2000.

UZBEKISTAN: 'GRANDMAS' CAN PRAY AGAIN - BUT NOT ON
SUNDAYS. Uzbek officials, referring to Christians as 'Grandmas', have
allowed a banned Christian church to resume services - but not in the church
building and not on Sundays. No response has been received to re-registration
requests. `There is no progress and no registration,' local Christians told Keston
News Service.

UZBEKISTAN: 'GRANDMAS' CAN PRAY AGAIN - BUT NOT ON
SUNDAYS

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

Officials in the town of Nukus, the capital of the western Uzbek autonomous
republic of Karakalpakstan, have allowed a banned Protestant Christian church
to resume services - although not in the closed church building and only on
weekdays, not Sundays. `Let the grandmas get together for their prayers,' local
Christians reported officials as telling church leaders. However, officials have
not responded to the church's demands for registration to be restored. `There is
no progress and no registration,' local Christians told Keston News Service.

The church vigorously rejects Justice Ministry accusations that the Mir
Presbyterian Church acted illegally in running a children's camp in July. Until
its closure the same month, the church was the only non-Muslim religious
organisation that had registration in the autonomous republic, which has a
population of some 1.5 million (see KNS 26 September 2000).

The church's pastor Vladimir Kim told Keston from Nukus on 23 November
that church members can now meet again in small groups in private homes. He
added that there has been no response to the church's many letters of complaint
to the Justice Ministry of Karakalpakstan, the Justice Ministry in the Uzbek
capital Tashkent, the human rights committee of parliament and other
government agencies. In the letters, of which Keston has received copies, the
church argues that the revocation of the church's registration was illegal. The
church also complains that the authorities failed to explain why they revoked
registration.

`We note that there were extraordinary difficulties in registering the Mir
Christian Church,' Pastor Kim complained to the Uzbek Justice Minister A.
Palvan-zade, `which was the only Christian church in the whole of the
Karakalpak republic. At present it is closed and the Christian question in the
Karakalpak republic has been fully closed.'

In early November two Tashkent-based leaders of the Full Gospel Church - a
union of Protestant Churches to which the Mir church belongs - visited Pastor
Kim in Nukus to discuss how to regain registration. They took copies of
documentation about the removal of registration.

Keston was unable to reach Seypadin Uterberginov, Karakalpakstan's deputy
justice minister, on 24 November, and no other official was available for
comment. (END)