Uzbekistan levies massive fines on Baptists
Associated Baptist Press
March 16, 2010

Uzbekistan levies massive fines on Baptists

Uzbekistan levies massive fines on Baptists
Associated Baptist Press
March 16, 2010

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

has signed.

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

his faith.

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

Department lists

Uzbekistan as one of eight

“Countries of Particular Concern,” a designation for the world’s worst

violators of religious freedom.