OSLO, Norway — Thirteen
members of an unregistered Baptist church in Uzbekistan have been fined 100
times the nation’s minimum monthly salary, an international news service that
tracks stories about abuses of religious freedom reported March 15.
The Norway-based Forum 18
news agency said
fines were handed down Feb. 23 following arrests Jan. 24 on charges of “illegal
teaching of religious doctrines without a special authorization from a central
religious organization” in the city of Almalyk, not far from Uzbekistan’s
capital of Tashkent.
Last year members of the
same church were fined 50 times the minimum monthly salary. Fines for six
Baptists were reduced to five times the monthly wage following an appeal.
The church belongs to the
Baptist Council of Churches, a group that refuses to register its congregations
within the former Soviet republic as a matter of principle. Fearing
interference by the state, the council’s churches claim a right to worship
without registering under international human-rights agreements that Uzbekistan
News of the conviction and
fines came on the heels of a separate case involving another church that is
also part of the Baptist Council of Churches. As
reported March 11, Tohar Haydarov, 27, was sentenced to 10 years in
prison in the region of Syrdarya in central Uzbekistan on drug charges that
fellow Baptists insist were fabricated against him after he refused to renounce
The Baptists in Almalyk
claimed more than 60 violations of Uzbek law by police, including excessive use
of force and falsifying of case files.
The United States State
Uzbekistan as one of eight
“Countries of Particular Concern,” a designation for the world’s worst
violators of religious freedom.