keston

UZBEKISTAN: Lawyer Fails to Gain Freedom for Jehovah's Witness.

y Igor Rotar, Keston News Service, 12 November 2002

The lawyer for Jehovah's Witness Marat Mudarisov, who is on trial in the Uzbek capital Tashkent on charges of inciting national, racial or religious hatred under Article 156 of the Criminal Code, has failed in his bids to have the case dismissed or at least to have his client freed while the case continues in court. Mudarisov - whose trial began on 16 October - has spent nearly four months in detention.

At the 5 November hearing at Tashkent's Akmal Ikram district court, the lawyer Orli Chimirov applied for the immediate release of his client on the grounds that no crime had been committed. He argued that the main accusation against Mudarisov is that an Uzbek-language brochure containing offensive statements about Islam was found in his bag. However Chimirov maintained that the prosecution has not been able to prove that the brochure belonged to Mudarisov.

Chimirov told the court that Mudarisov had on many occasions had dealings with the National Security Service (NSS, the former KGB). "It is inconceivable that on attending questioning by the NSS of his own free will, he should take with him a book banned in Uzbekistan," Chimirov declared. He said one of those who witnessed the bag being searched declared that he could not read Russian, and yet the search protocol of Mudarisov's bag is in this language. Furthermore this same witness said that the bag in which Mudarisov's literature was found was in a different NSS room from Mudarisov himself, who consequently was not in a position to be responsible for its contents. Chimirov argued that the fact that Mudarisov was unable to be responsible for his bag's contents was confirmed by the mother of the accused, Nuriya Mudarisova. "In this way accusations that the book with offensive statements regarding Islam in the Uzbek language belonged to Mudarisov do not stand up to criticism."

Chimirov drew the court's attention to the fact that his client had been "unlawfully" held in prison since 19 July, the day he was detained in the NSS building of the Akmal Ikram district of Tashkent. He also pointed to the extremely confusing and contradictory nature of Mudarisov's alleged statements presented by the NSS investigator Ilkhom Talanov (see KNS 1 November 2002). Chimirov also applied for the court to examine the "gross breaches of procedural norms" by NSS officers holding Mudarisov. However the court declined to release Mudarisov and declared that the defence's application would be considered at a new hearing on 8 November.

At the 8 November hearing the court declined Chimirov's application and continued to question witnesses, in particular the Akmal Ikram district Interior Ministry investigator Khamid Khaidarov, who has conducted the case against Mudarisov.

Khaidarov's statements exemplified the ignorance of Uzbekistan's law enforcement personnel in dealing with cases of believers. He declared for example that the activity of Jehovah's Witnesses contravenes the Uzbek constitution. When Chimirov asked how it could then be explained that Jehovah's Witness branches have been registered in the Uzbek towns of Chirchik and Fergana, Khaidarov was unable to answer.

Khaidarov also claimed that Jehovah's Witnesses incite national hatred by "preaching only from the Bible and not from the Koran". He also accused them of contravening the constitution by refusing to take up arms, although Article 52 of the constitution makes provision for alternative service. It is interesting that Khaidarov did not bring any other accusations against Mudarisov, declaring only that any Jehovah's Witness should be called to account to a court of law.

After Khaidarov's testimony, the court set the next court hearing for 13 November. (END)

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Etiam pharetra, tellus sit amet congue vulputate, nisi erat iaculis nibh, vitae feugiat sapien ante eget mauris. Aenean sollicitudin imperdiet arcu, vitae dignissim est posuere id.Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Etiam pharetra, tellus sit amet congue vulputate, nisi erat iaculis nibh, vitae feugiat sapien ante eget mauris. Aenean sollicitudin imperdiet arcu, vitae dignissim est posuere id.