By BosNewsLife News Center in Budapest
TASHKENT/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife) -- An evangelical pastor remained detained in Uzbekistan Friday, April 27, after he was reportedly arrested in Muynak a city in Uzbekistan's troubled region of Karakalpakstan, while an activist was sentenced to six years in jail.
Barnabas Fund, an international organization helping Christians in predominantly Muslim nations, said Pastor Salavat Serikbaev was arrested last week on three charges of "incitement to religious hatred", â€œrunning an illegal religious organization" and "distributing materials promoting religious extremism".
"These are the same three charges which were brought [earlier this year] against Pastor Dmitri (David) Shestakov," who was recently sentenced to four-years in one of Uzbekistan's open labor camps in what fellow believers said was a "retaliation" for his Christian work
The pastor, who is currently in custody, lodged an appeal last month against the sentence, however "David had not heard anything from the Court by 17th April," Barnabas Fund added in a statement obtained by BosNewsLife.
Davidâ€™s lawyer has reportedly tried to pursue the Court of Appeal to keep the legal process running. "The outcome of Davidâ€™s case is likely to have a bearing on Pastor Salavatâ€™s trial," which was due to begin in April, Barnabas Fund said..
The group said it had urged its supporters to "pray that the charges against Pastor Salavat will be dropped and he will be released from custody," and that "the Court of Appeal will begin a re-trial," for Pastor Shestakov. It also demands that "Uzbek authorities will not see Christians as a threat and will cease this persecution."
Uzbek officials were not immediately available for comment, but human rights observers have said the developments are part of the "ruthlessly authoritarian approach" by President Islam Karimov and his fear of perceived religious and political threats to his power base.
In 2005 at least hundreds of people died when security forces opened fire on anti-government demonstrators in Andijan. Karimov has dominated the country's leadership since 1989 when he rose to be Communist Party leader in then Soviet Uzbekistan, experts say.
On Friday, April 27, reports emerged that an Uzbek rights activist who challenged the official account of the 2005 uprising by claiming that government troops killed hundreds of protesters has been sentenced to six years in jail.
The Human Rights Watch group said the regional court in the eastern city of Andijan convicted Gulbakhor Turayeva on Thursday, April 26, of anti-government activity and possession of banned literature.
Turayeva has been held in custody since her arrest in January, The Associated Press news agency reported.
The former pathologist affiliated with rights group Anima-Kor, recently said she saw about 500 dead bodies heaped in a school yard in Andijan a day after government troops fired on thousands of mostly unarmed protesters
The ex-Soviet republic's has reportedly insisted 187 died and blamed Islamic militants for sparking the May 13, 2005, uprising. Rights groups and survivors have said at least 700 demonstrators were killed. (With reporting from Uzbekistan and BosNewsLife Monitoring).
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