Tashkent and Astana: on the brink of a diplomatic scandal
Detained in Samarkand, Kazakh pastor Rishat Garifulin spent 11 days in custody. Anna, the missionary's wife, phoned Novye Izvestia with details of the incident. Garifulin, pastor of the Protestant Church of The Grace, was arrested for bringing religious literature to Uzbekistan. A citizen of Kazakhstan, he was stopped in the street, frisked, and taken away.
The Samarkand police found several Christian brochures and leaflets in Garifulin's bag and promptly collared the pastor. The new law "On amendment of the Criminal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure, and Administrative Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan" was adopted in this Central Asian country last year. These days, a man with two Bibles is bound to be bagged in Uzbekistan because presence of the second copy is regarded as "possession with the aim to proliferate." Boris Kostin of an international human rights organization told this newspaper that "it's a bona fide manhunt in Uzbekistan these days, missionaries of Christian churches being the hunted."
The police first intended to charge Garifulin under Article 159 of the revised Criminal Code (illegal production, possession, bringing in, or proliferation of religious materials) but the pastor's wife approached the Foreign Ministry of Uzbekistan. Kazakh consul in Tashkent interceded on Garifulin's behalf. The latter was permitted to see a lawyer yesterday and eventually released.
There is nothing really extraordinary about the Kazakh pastor's arrest. A team comprising officers of the National Security Service and Interior Ministry searches the apartment of Ahmed Nazarov, leader of the Protestant community in Urgench, a couple of days ago. Assaulted and beaten, Nazarov jumped out the window and hurt both legs. Officials of the local prosecutor's office visited his apartment after that. Charges under Article 159 were pressed against Nazarov, religious activist and a disabled person of the second category whose diabetes requires that he be hospitalized.
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Novye Izvestia, February 21, 2007, p. 4
© Translated by Ferghana.Ru