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Police raid Baptist Easter service and detain 10 church members in Uzbekistan

Local officers stormed into the church and “brutally beat church members, used electric shock prods to incapacitate them”, denounces Forum 18.

FUENTES Forum 18 News AUTOR 5/Evangelical_Focus TASKENT 14 DE ABRIL DE 2023 09:25 h
Police raid on Baptist Council of Churches congregation in Karshi. / Baptist Council of Churches.

The Baptist church in Karshi (Uzbekistan) was raided on Easter Sunday morning, by the police, who "damaged the door, behaved crudely, and arrested church members", reports human rights group Forum 18.

According to Forum 18, officials arrived during the service, only saying that they were from the local district committee and were acting in accordance with a circular from the Religious Affairs Committee, which states that events involving foreigners like the musicians from Germany that were there, were not allowed.

The officials then called in the police, who entered through the yard, breaking down the church door, while musicians continued to sing in front of the crowded place of worship.

Church members told Forum 18 that "police brutally beat David Ibragimov and a few more church members in front of our fellow believers, they also used electric shock prods and other implements to incapacitate the brothers and sisters. Church members cried and prayed during those difficult minutes".

Officers arrested 10 church members, including young people, and held them until 3 pm. Before releasing them, they were filed with an offence.

Forum 18 informs that "the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment requires the regime to arrest and put on criminal trial for torture officials suspected of involvement in torture".


Baptists fear more raids

One day later, police raided another special Easter worship meeting of the Council of Churches Baptist in Denov in Surkhandarya region, where the German musicians had travelled from Karshi to participate.

They said the meeting was illegal and forcibly dispersed those present.

Council of Churches Baptists say the raids took place after the Church's attempts to rent 15 local halls for Easter presentations with the visiting German musicians. All the attempts were blocked.

They warn that the authorities may disrupt further events in the musicians tour of Uzbek cities.


Not the first time

The Karshi Baptist church was previously raided by town Hokimiyat (administration) officials on 19 February during its Sunday morning worship service.

Furthermore, police and local officials burst into a special service held by the church to dedicate its new building on 21 November 2021. They tried to halt the service and to disperse those present, but church members prevented them from entering.

Officials also threatened to to ban any foreign citizens who were at the service from further entry to the country, but they finally didn't and "mostly behaved correctly", Baptists said.

Forum 18 denounces that Uzbek authorities have raided the Karshi church and fined church members on any occasions since 2013.


Detained for carrying religious literature

Last February, a Baptist from Kazakhstan was detained at the Gisht-Kuprik Uzbek border crossing point with Christian children's book, calendars and postcards and 31 Bibles.

Customs officials questioned him and then released him that evening, but the following day they summoned him again to the border post for further questioning and allowed him to leave Uzbekistan 2 days later.

On 7 March, officials finally accused him of "illegal production, storage, or import into Uzbekistan, with the intent to distribute or actual distribution, of religious materials".

The fine could be two to ten months' average wage, plus confiscation of the materials. The case was handed to Tashkent Administrative Court, but no date has yet been set for a hearing.




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