Wednesday, September 7, 2005
By BosNewsLife News Center
TASHKENT/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife) -- Almost 600 Uzbek-language Christian leaflets for children distributed by Baptists have been destroyed in Uzbekistan after a court in Tashkent region ordered the destruction last month, BosNewsLife monitored Wednesday, September 7.
This is "the third time Baptists have had confiscated literature destroyed on court orders. Other books, including New Testaments, seized from a group of Baptists in July were ordered to be handed over to the government's Religious Affairs Committee," said Forum 18, a human rights watchdog.
Four Baptists found guilty of "illegally" bringing in the books were each fined some 35 US dollars, members of Tashkent Baptist church told F18 News Service (F18News).
Senior religious affairs official Begzot Kadyrov was quoted as saying that religious literature banned from distribution in Uzbekistan "is not destroyed, but returned to the country from which it was brought." He allegedly admitted that at least some religious literature has been destroyed.
RELIGIOUS LITERATURE CENSORED
The Uzbekistan government censors all religious literature and other Protestants, independent Muslims, Hare Krishna devotees and Jehovah's Witnesses have also faced literature seizures and, on occasion, destruction in recent years, human rights watchers say.
The latest developments came less than a month after the Uzbek authorities deported F18News journalist Igor Rotar, who investigated the plight of persecuted Christians in the region. He was deported August 13 after being detained at Tashkent Airport on August 11.
Human rights groups watchers say the President of the former Soviet republic, Islam Karimov, tightened his "repressive religion policy" following anti government protests in May. Up to one thousand people reportedly died when government forces opened fire on demonstrators, although that figure has not been verified independently.
PROTESTANTS SUFFER ESPECIALLY
Especially Protestants in north-west Uzbekistan – whose activities in the region are banned – are under great pressure, as are Hare Krishna devotees in that region, Forum 18 said.
President Karimov visited China in May which analysts described as a move to shore up support for his government as the violence is widely perceived to have isolated Uzbekistan diplomatically in the West.
Apparently fearing similar developments at home, China's government announced it strongly "backs Uzbekistan's response" to the May protests, news reports said.
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