UZBEKISTAN: Police Beat Up Teenage Jehovah's Witness.

by Igor Rotar, Keston News Service, 8 November 2002

A 17-year-old Jehovah's Witness from the town of Kagan on the outskirts of Bukhara, western Uzbekistan, was detained by police officers on 30 October on suspicion of distributing religious literature. Aleksei Rajabov was taken to the police station, where he claims he endured torture and insults for nearly twelve hours. Rajabov told Keston News Service on 5 November that the reason given for his arrest was the fact that during a spot check he was found to have copies of the Jehovah's Witness magazines "The Watchtower" and "Awake!".

At the Kagan police station, Rajabov claims he was beaten in the kidneys and around the head and told to admit that he was distributing Jehovah's Witness literature. He said he was handcuffed to the lower part of a bed so that he could not stand, and was kept in a corner on the cold floor until five o'clock in the morning.

Rajabov told Keston that although he was legally a minor, the police did not tell his parents about his arrest although they were obliged to do so by law. He also stressed that the literature found on him was not banned in Uzbekistan.

Anatoli Melnik, a member of the ruling committee of Jehovah's Witnesses of Kazakhstan (which oversees all of Central Asia), told Keston on 5 November that the current trial in the city of Jehovah's Witness Marat Mudarisov (see KNS 1 November 2002) was being used as a signal for a campaign against members of the religion throughout the country.

The Jehovah's Witnesses report harassment of their members in Uzbekistan almost daily. Jehovah's Witness Andrei Kuzmin told Keston that on 3 November members of the National Security Service (NSS) and police from the Mirabad district of Tashkent burst into a private flat where 12 Jehovah's Witnesses had gathered. Kuzmin maintains that officers warned them "the Wahhabis [the local term in Central Asia for fundamentalist Muslims] are after you now. So far, just one of your fellow-believers is serving time, but soon you'll all be doing time."

Police and NSS officers confiscated around 900 religious pamphlets from the Jehovah's Witnesses (which are not banned in Uzbekistan) and warned them that they would soon face fines as "participants in an unlawful religious meeting". (END)