Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Forum 18: Uzbekistan - 15 years for "reading prohibited literature"

Aitmurat Khayburahmanov, a Protestant from Nukus in Karakalpakstan, faces a criminal trial later in July on charges of teaching religion without official approval and establishing or participating in a "religious extremist" organisation, the investigator in the case, Bahadur Jakbaev, told Forum 18 News Service.

The latter charge carries a penalty for those found guilty of between five and fifteen years' imprisonment. Justifying the accusation of extremism, Jakbaev said that Khayburahmanov gathers people in his home to read "prohibited" Christian literature. Jakbaev said the Bible was not banned, but refused to specify what the prohibited books were. Protestants told Forum 18 Khayburahmanov's body is "covered with bruises" from beatings administered in isolation cell since his 14 June arrest.

Meanwhile, the head of Uzbekistan's Jewish community, Chief Rabbi Abe David Gurevich, finally left Uzbekistan on 5 June after the Justice Ministry refused to renew his accreditation. "His return to the country depends onwhether or not he will get a visa from the Uzbek authorities," a Jewish representative told Forum 18 from Tashkent.

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