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  1. By Victoria Arnold, Forum 18 Prosecutors state Yevgeny Kim faces up to 10 years' imprisonment for studying a Muslim theologian's works with friends. His criminal trial began in Blagoveshchensk on 25 January after a year in prison. Two Jehovah's Witness elders face "inciting religious hatred" criminal charges in Moscow Region. Thirteen months after his December 2015 arrest by the FSB security service, the trial of 42-year-old Muslim Yevgeny Kim began yesterday (25 January) in Blagoveshchensk in the Far Eastern Amur Region, Forum 18 has learned. Kim is charged with "extremism" offences for meeting with others to study the works of the late Turkish Muslim theologian Said Nursi. The trial is due to resume on 7 February. Amur Regional Prosecutor's Office said in November 2016 that Kim faces up to 10 years' imprisonment. Kim is among 11 Muslims (all of them men) being prosecuted for meeting to study Nursi's works in four separate cases across Russia. Another case is expected to reach court in the next few months in Novosibirsk, while the FSB security service is still investigating cases in Makhachkala and Krasnoyarsk. Three of the defendants, including Kim, remain in pre-trial detention, while another six are under travel restrictions (see forthcoming F18News article). On 8 December 2016, Forum 18 wrote to all the regional FSB branches responsible for these prosecutions, asking how long those in detention were likely to remain there and when exactly court proceedings would begin. Forum 18 received no reply by 26 January 2017. Meanwhile, Jehovah's Witnesses are again facing criminal charges under "anti-extremism" legislation for exercising their right to freedom of religion and belief. Vyacheslav Stepanov and Andrei Sivak, both community elders in Moscow Region, are undergoing a re-trial for alleged incitement of religious hatred, of which they were initially fully acquitted in March 2016 (see below). Kim, Stepanov, Sivak and most of the other Muslims under investigation have had their assets frozen as alleged "terrorists and extremists", even though they have not been convicted of any crime (see below). Nursi cases All four ongoing prosecutions of Muslims who study Nursi's works have arisen from circumstances similar to those of previous cases: people who have met to read and discuss Nursi's books are accused of creating "cells" of the banned "extremist" organisation "Nurdzhular", which Muslims in Russia deny exists. Prosecutors then bring charges under Criminal Code Article 282.2, either under Part 1 ("Organisation of the activity of a social or religious association or other organisation in relation to which a court has adopted a decision legally in force on liquidation or ban on the activity in connection with the carrying out of extremist activity") or Part 2 ("Participation in the activity of a social or religious association or other organisation in relation to which a court has adopted a decision legally in force on liquidation or ban on the activity in connection with the carrying out of extremist activity") (see Forum 18's "extremism" Russia religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=2215). The 11 accused Muslims are being prosecuted under the pre-July 2016 version of Criminal Code Article 282.2. If convicted under Part 1, courts could hand down fines of 300,000 to 500,000 Roubles, compulsory labour of up to five years or prison sentences of up to six years. If convicted under Part 2, courts could hand down fines of up to 300,000 Roubles, compulsory labour of up to three years, or prison sentences of up to four years. Each 100,000 Roubles is the equivalent of 14,000 Norwegian Kroner, 1,550 Euros, or 1,650 US Dollars. Increased penalties So-called Yarovaya "anti-terrorism" legal changes came into force on 20 July 2016 (see Forum 18's "extremism" Russia religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=2215). They increased the then-existing Article 282.2 penalties to: Part 1 ("organisation") – a fine of 400,000 to 800,000 Roubles; or 2 to 4 years' income; or 6 to 10 years' imprisonment with a ban on working in one's profession of up to 10 years and restrictions on freedom for 1 to 2 years; Part 2 ("participation") – a fine of 300,000 to 600,000 Roubles; or 2 to 3 years' income; or compulsory labour for 1 to 4 years with a ban on working in one's profession for up to 3 years or with restrictions on freedom for up to 1 year; or 2 to 6 years' imprisonment with a ban on working in one's profession for up to 5 years or with restrictions on freedom for up to 1 year. No prosecutions under these amended terms are known to have begun between 20 July 2016 and late January 2017. Financial penalties even if not convicted Officials have placed both Jehovah's Witness defendants and nine of the 11 Muslims currently being prosecuted on the list of "terrorists and extremists" maintained by the Federal Financial Monitoring Service (Rosfinmonitoring). Banks are thereby obliged to freeze their assets. From 30 January 2014 the law has been relaxed to allow small transactions not exceeding 10,000 Roubles per month. (For a detailed description of this financial blacklisting, see Forum 18's Russia Extremism survey http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2215). Blagoveshchensk Nursi Yevgeny Lvovich Kim (born 5 October 1974) is being prosecuted in a criminal case initiated by the FSB security service. The FSB accuses Kim of having organised religious gatherings in Blagoveshchensk between September and November 2015. At these he allegedly "decided to quote from" and discuss Nursi's collection of writings "Risale-i Nur" ("Messages of Light"), according to a December 2015 court document granting the FSB permission for a property search, seen by Forum 18 (see F18News 21 January 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2141). Law enforcement interpreted this as "disseminating the religious ideas of the international religious association Nurdzhular, [while] fully aware of the fact that .. [it] had been recognised as extremist and its activities prohibited on the territory of the Russian Federation". Sharing such "extremist" texts, even in private homes, can make those involved liable to criminal and administrative prosecution. Muslims who read Nursi's works deny that the alleged organisation Nurdzhular exists (see Forum 18's "extremism" Russia religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=2215). FSB-ordered "expert analysis" found that what Kim and others said at these meetings was "aimed at inciting religious hatred", promoted the "superiority of the Turkic peoples", and contained "negative evaluations" of Armenians and Russians. "Expert analyses" can be biased and may be produced by people who are not, in fact, "experts" (see Forum 18's "extremism" Russia religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=2215). Kim and several friends were detained and interrogated after an armed unit of the FSB raided Kim's flat on 26 December 2015, during a gathering to celebrate the birthday of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed (see F18News 21 January 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2141). All but Kim were later released. Among those also detained was Kim's friend Anton Pavlovich Starodubtsev (born 4 April 1980). He has since complained of the treatment they received during both arrest and questioning, including threats and attempted blackmail, and has categorically denied any involvement in extremist activity, (see F18News 11 April 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2166). The FSB arrested Kim initially under Criminal Code Article 282.2, Part 1. A 30 November 2016 statement on the Amur Regional Prosecutor's Office – which did not name Kim – revealed, however, that charges had also been added under Criminal Code Article 282, Part 1. The announcement said Kim denied any wrongdoing. It added that he faces up to 10 years' imprisonment if convicted. Prosecutors also charged Starodubtsev under Criminal Code Article 282.2, Part 2 ("participation in an extremist organisation", but his whereabouts remain unknown. FSB investigators have added both Kim and Starodubtsev to the Rosfinmonitoring list of "terrorists and extremists". Criminal Code Article 282, Part 1, punishes "actions aimed at the incitement of hatred or enmity, as well as humiliation of a person or group", based on "sex, race, nationality, language, origin, attitude to religion, or social group" (see Forum 18's "extremism" Russia religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=2215). Kim's additional charge under Article 282, Part 1, is unusual for a Nursi-related case. Forum 18 knows of only two other individuals who read Nursi's writings who have been taken to court for this alleged offence since the works began to be banned in 2007 – Ilham Islamli was convicted under Article 282, Part 1, alone in August 2010; in September 2011, Rashid Abdulov was convicted under Article 282, Part 2(v), as well as Article 282.2, Part 1 (see F18News 14 October 2011 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1625). Kim is being prosecuted under the pre-July 2016 Article 282, Part 1, which means he faces the following possible punishments under this Article: a fine of 100,000 to 300,000 Roubles or 1 to 2 years' income; or community service (obyazatelnaya rabota) for up to 360 hours; or correctional labour (ispravitelnaya rabota) for up to 1 year, or compulsory labour (prinuditelnaya rabota) for up to 4 years; or imprisonment of up to 4 years. Blagoveshchensk trial begins Kim's trial began at Blagoveshchensk City Court with a preliminary hearing on 13 January. The first full hearing was on 25 January, according to court records. The next hearing is due on 7 February, his lawyer Natalya Terekhova told Forum 18 from Blagoveshchensk on 26 January. Meanwhile, Kim remains in custody at Blagoveshchensk Investigation Prison No. 1, where he has been held since 26 December 2015. The address of Blagoveshchensk's Investigation Prison, where Forum 18 believes Kim to be detained, is: 675007 Amurskaya Oblast Blagoveshchensk Seryshevsky pereulok 55 Sledstvenny Izolyator No. 1 Russia Forum 18 telephoned the prison in the evening of 26 January in Blagoveshchensk and asked whether Kim was being allowed to pray and have access to the Koran and other religious literature. The duty officer said he could not answer any questions as it was outside working hours. Why the campaign against Nursi readers? Nothing in Nursi's writings appears to advocate hatred, violence, or the violation of any human right. Despite this, numerous Russian lower courts have ruled that various Russian translations of his works (and of some other Islamic and Jehovah's Witness texts) are "extremist", and have had them added to the Justice Ministry's Federal List of Extremist Materials(see Forum 18's "extremism" Russia religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=2215). The grounds for Russia's ongoing nationwide campaign against readers of Nursi's works are obscure, with quite different reasons offered for banning Nursi writings and "Nurdzhular" in different contexts. The primary cause, however, appears to be state opposition to "foreign" spiritual and cultural influence (see Forum 18's "extremism" Russia religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=2215). Little or no reasoning is given in the court decisions which have added Nursi's works to the Federal List, Forum 18 notes. Among the few specific instances of "extremism" cited, for example, are Nursi's descriptions of non-Muslims as "frivolous", "philosophers" and "empty-talkers". Yet the freedom to criticise any religious or non-religious belief is a central part of the freedom of religion and belief (see Forum 18's "extremism" Russia religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=2215). Sergiyev Posad Jehovah's Witnesses After Moscow Regional Court overturned their original acquittal on 26 May 2016 at the request of prosecutors, Jehovah's Witness elders Vyacheslav Yuryevich Stepanov (born 20 March 1977) and Andrei Petrovich Sivak (born 28 March 1974) are once again due to appear at Sergiyev Posad City Court. Both are charged with inciting religious hatred under Criminal Code Article 282, Part 2. Their re-trial began in August 2016, but most hearings have been postponed. Judge Liliya Baranova ordered further "expert analysis" in November, and the first (twice delayed) hearing of the new year is due to take place on 20 February, according to the court website. Criminal Code Article 282, Part 2, punishes publicly performed "actions aimed at the incitement of hatred or enmity, as well as humiliation of a person or group", based on sex, race, nationality, language, origin, attitude to religion, or social group", when committed a) with violence or the threat of violence; b) by a person using their official position; c) by an organised group (of which Stepanov and Sivak are accused). As their alleged offences took place before amendments to the Criminal Code increased extremism-related sentences in February 2014 and July 2016, Stepanov and Sivak face the following possible punishments: a fine of 100,000 to 500,000 Roubles or 2 to 3 years' income; or community service for up to 480 hours; or 1 to 2 years' correctional labour (ispravitelnaya rabota); or up to 5 years' compulsory labour (prinutdelnaya rabota); or up to 5 years' imprisonment. Officials have placed both Stepanov and Sivak under travel restrictions, Jehovah's Witness spokesperson Ivan Belenko told Forum 18 on 19 January. So-called Yarovaya "anti-terrorism" legal changes came into force on 20 July 2016 (see Forum 18's "extremism" Russia religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=2215). They increased the then-existing Article 282 penalties to: Part 1 – a fine of 300,000 to 500,000 Roubles; or 2 to 3 years' income; or compulsory labour (prinutdelnaya rabota) for 1 to 4 years with a ban on working in one's profession for up to 3 years; or 2 to 5 years' imprisonment; Part 2 – a fine of 300,000 to 600,000 Roubles; or 2 to 3 years' income; or compulsory labour (prinutdelnaya rabota) for 2 to 5 years with a ban on working in one's profession for up to 3 years; or 3 to 6 years' imprisonment. Sergiyev Posad: earlier prosecution ended in acquittal The Sergiyev Posad District Prosecutor's Office opened their original case against Stepanov and Sivak in April 2013. This case appears to have been based on covert video surveillance of the defendants and their congregation dating from the autumn of 2010, according to the 4 March 2016 court verdict seen by Forum 18. Sivak and Stepanov were brought to Sergiyev Posad City Court only in August 2015. The period of the initial investigation was "artificially extended", Jehovah's Witness spokesperson Belenko explained to Forum 18 on 10 January, when Sivak and Stepanov were added to the Interior Ministry wanted persons database on three occasions without any grounds and without their knowledge. The two men were acquitted at Sergiyev Posad City Court on 4 March 2016 when Judge Yelena Aminova found them not guilty of organising gatherings, "veiled under the guise of 'religious meetings'", with the aim of "inciting hatred and enmity against followers of all religions other than adherents of the 'Jehovah's Witnesses' religious organisation, and humiliating human dignity on the grounds of religion". According to the written verdict, prosecutors also accused them of "contrasting the 'Jehovah's Witnesses' religion to other religions, declaring [the latter] 'false', [and] evaluating them very negatively, as well as appealing to citizens to refuse their civic responsibilities and commit illegal actions" – claims for which the judge concluded there was no evidence in the recordings presented to the court. The judge dismissed the "expert analysis" performed by Natalya Kryukova, Director of the Centre for Socio-Cultural Analysis in Moscow (which held that Stepanov and Sivak's sermons in the recordings bore signs of "extremism"). The Judge instead agreed with the findings of the Justice Ministry's Legal Expertise Centre, which were that services had "an educational, discursive character" and that "views inherent in the religion are evaluated as true and correct, which is an integral important feature of religious discourse". Judge Aminova concluded that "A different assessment of [Sivak and Stepanov's] speeches defies common sense and logic". "The court recognised [the defendants'] right to rehabilitation," Belenko told Forum 18 on 10 January, "including compensation for moral damages and the reinstatement of labour, pension, housing, and other rights." Forum 18 called Sergiyev Posad District Prosecutor's Office on 26 January to ask why the original acquittal was challenged and why the two men are considered dangerous. When Forum 18 mentioned the case against Stepanov and Sivak, the phone was immediately put down. (END) http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2250
  2. Stanislav Kim could be jailed for up to three years if convicted of having "illegal" religious literature in his home in Urgench. In Bukhara, two Jehovah's Witnesses were jailed for ten days and, with 28 others, fined for "illegal" literature and worship meeting. Police in Urgench [Urganch] in Uzbekistan's north-western Khorezm Region appear about to hand to court a criminal case against a local Baptist to punish him for "illegal possession" of religious literature in his home. Stanislav Kim could face up to three years' imprisonment if convicted. The Investigator who prepared the indictment refused to tell Forum 18 if Nikolai Serin, another Baptist questioned as a witness in the case, also faces prosecution. Courts routinely punish people for "illegal" religious literature as well as holding meetings for worship. Khorezm authorities also raided a Baptist worship meeting in February. In late March the host and her non-believing husband were fined for possessing "illegal" literature in their home when the meeting was raided. Meanwhile in the southern Bukhara Region on 27 January, 30 Jehovah's Witnesses were punished for meeting for worship and possessing religious literature officials claimed was "illegal". They received fines totalling more than 1,050 times the minimum monthly wage or 136,752,000 Soms (390,000 Norwegian Kroner, 42,000 Euros or 47,000 US Dollars at the inflated official exchange rate). Two of the Jehovah's Witnesses - Andrei and Yelena Yu - were fined 30 times the minimum monthly wage each and given 10-day jail terms for exercising their freedom of religion and belief. Against its international human rights obligations, Uzbekistan imposes strict censorship on all religious publications and all aspects of their distribution. There is a de facto ban on religious literature of any faith in homes and if found such literature is frequently ordered to be destroyed. State pressure is so great that for their own safety some religious believers have destroyed their own sacred texts (see Forum 18's Uzbekistan religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1862). Imprisonment for religious literature? On 27 June Investigator Lieutenant Sarvar Artykov of Urgench City Police in Khorezm Region prepared and signed the indictment (seen by Forum 18) against local Baptist Stanislav Kim. He is accused of "illegal possession" of Christian literature under Criminal Code Article 244-3. Article 244-3 punishes "Illegal production, storage, import into the territory of Uzbekistan with a purpose to distribute or distribution of religious materials, committed after enforcement of an administrative penalty for a similar violation" with a fine of 100 to 200 times the minimum monthly wage or corrective labour of up to three years. "The Investigator warned us that Stanislav might be fined or even jailed for up to three years," Nikolai Serin, Kim's fellow-Baptist from Navoi Region, told Forum 18 on 27 June. Police told Serin and Kim that Urgench City Court will hear the case in up to fifteen days (by about 10 July), Serin added. Both Kim and Serin are members of separate Council of Churches Baptist congregations. Council of Churches Baptist churches do not – as Uzbekistan against its human rights obligations requires – seek state permission to exist (see Forum 18's Uzbekistan religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1862). Urgench Police questioned Serin on 26 June as a witness in the case, he noted. On 19 June Police in Navoi had already raided his home there and confiscated his Christian books. Navoi Police told him that a case had been opened against him under Administrative Code Article 184-2, which punishes "Illegal production, storage, import or distribution of religious materials" with a fine for individuals of 20 to 100 times the minimum monthly wage, as well as confiscation of the materials and any equipment used to produce them. "We've done nothing criminal, but only exercised our Constitutional rights which allow us peacefully to practice our faith, which does no harm to anyone," Serin insisted to Forum 18. He said that when he told Investigator Artykov, who is leading the case, that he refuses to be a witness, the Investigator warned him that "I also may be punished with up to three years' imprisonment unless I cooperate with the Police." Serin did not sign any Police reports or statements prepared by Urgench Police during questioning either on 17 May or 26 June, he told Forum 18. "Extremist"? Investigator Artykov argues in the 27 June indictment that the materials found in Kim's home "contain ideas of converting believers of one confession to another, which is against Article 5, Part 3 of the Religion Law". He concludes therefore that Kim "stored illegal religious materials in his private flat". The indictment says that among the items officers seized from Kim was a Russian-language book "To Mecca", which "propagates the Protestant religion". The book is a "testimony of a former [non-Uzbek] Muslim man who became a Christian", Serin told Forum 18. He confirmed that Kim had a copy. The "expert analysis" by the government's Religious Affairs Committee says that the book "does not contain ideas against Uzbekistan's Constitutional order, or of an extremist or separatist nature". But it claims that the book "can be used for missionary purposes", Serin noted. Arslan Ruzimov, Chief of Khorezm Regional Police Criminal Investigation Department, adamantly defended the charges against Kim. Asked on 28 June why the authorities want to imprison him, he told Forum 18 from Urgench: "The religious expert analysis found the materials confiscated from Kim to be extremist." Told that the confiscated literature consisted of Christian magazines, children's stories, song-books and Kim's personal notes, and asked what specifically is "extremist" in those materials, Ruzimov could not answer. "They have a lawyer, they can ask him to defend them," he retorted. Asked why Serin was pressured to be a witness against Kim, his co-believer, he did not answer. He then declined to talk to Forum 18. Investigator Artykov also used a July 2001 conviction in a non-religious criminal case to justify the unrelated new case. Kim was sentenced that year to 20 years' imprisonment as an alleged accomplice in an intentional killing. Artykov argues that although Kim was freed from his sentence, "he continued violating the Law". Serin told Forum 18 that Kim was released from prison in 2009, and that "he became a believer while in prison." He said that "it looks like the authorities want to imprison him again, which is why they bring up his criminal conviction from the past in the indictment." Investigator Artykov told Forum 18 on 28 June that the case against Kim has not yet been handed to the Court, but refused to answer Forum 18's other questions. Asked whether any charges were brought against Serin, as well as why a criminal case was opened against Kim simply for having Christian books and materials in his home, Artykov replied: "If you want to know the answers then send your representative to our office. I will not answer your questions over the phone." Artykov also did not say when the Police will refer the case to the Court. Why criminal charges? The indictment explains that police opened a criminal case against Kim because this is the second case against him within one year for possessing "illegal" religious literature. Urgench City Criminal Court fined Kim ten times the minimum monthly wage, 1,184,000 Soms, on 8 August 2015 under Administrative Code Article 184-2, according to the June 2016 indictment. The Court ordered part of the Christian literature confiscated from him to be destroyed and the rest to be handed over to the Khorezm Department of the state-backed Muslim Board. Secret police and anti-terrorism police raid and confiscations The latest trouble began for Kim on 17 May, when Major Shukhrat Masharipov of Urgench Anti-Terrorism Police and two unidentified officers raided his home in the city, Serin told Forum 18. The indictment indicates that the two officers represented the National Security Service (NSS) secret police. The officers pretended to be conducting a passport inspection. Without showing a search warrant, officers confiscated Christian literature, including the book "To Mecca", one copy each of "Herald of Truth" magazine, two Baptist song books ("Hold on to Christ" and "Youth for Christ"), a book of Christian children's stories, and several notebooks with personal notes. Serin told Forum 18 that he was present during the Police raid on Kim's home, since he happened to be visiting him that day. Six hour interrogation Officer Masharipov and the other officers took Kim's and Serin's passports and left, demanding that the two appear at Urgench Police Station the next morning. On 18 May, Major Masharipov and Police Investigator Shavkat Bekjanov questioned the two Baptists for six hours, Serin told Forum 18. "They suggested that we write statements but we refused." The Police told the Baptists that as Kim had been found for the second time "illegally possessing" Christian literature in his home, this time he may be jailed. The two were released from the Police Station that evening. February Khorezm raid and fines On 17 February in Gullanbog, in Yangiaryk District of Khorezm Region, two plain-clothes Anti-Terrorism Police officers and the local ordinary police officer raided the home of Oybek and Gulnara Rahimov as 15 Council of Churches Baptists were meeting for worship. "When the local police officer saw we were worshipping, he called for a police squad," Baptists told Forum 18 on 15 April. Police then began filming those present and took down their names. Police also confiscated a Bible, a children's Bible, one other Christian book and two Baptist song-books. All the meeting participants were taken to Yangiaryk District Police Station, where they were questioned for three hours. Oybek Rahimov is not a Baptist and was not at home during the raid. But that did not stop Judge Yerpolat Berdiyev, Chair of Bogot District Criminal Court, on 22 March fining both wife and husband 10 times the minimum monthly wage each. Baptists have particularly expressed outrage at the fine imposed on Oybek. Judge Berdiyev also ordered the destruction of Christian literature confiscated from the Rahimovs' home. Courts frequently order that such confiscated religious literature be destroyed (see Forum 18's Uzbekistan religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1862). Asked why the Baptists were raided, Bogot District Police on 8 June referred Forum 18 to Anti-Terrorism Police officer Dilshot Fayzullayev. However, asked the same day why officers conducted the raid, fines and confiscations, he refused to answer. Neither Bogot District Court, nor Judge Berdiyev, answered their phones on 9 June. Two short-term prisoners of conscience, 30 large fines Meanwhile, in Kogon in Bukhara [Bukhoro] Region on 27 January, 30 Jehovah's Witnesses received fines totalling more than 1,050 times the minimum monthly wage or 136,752,000 Soms (390,000 Norwegian Kroner, 42,000 Euros or 47,000 US Dollars at the inflated official exchange rate). Two of the Jehovah's Witnesses - Andrei and Yelena Yu - were fined 30 times the minimum monthly wage each and given 10-day jail terms for exercising their freedom of religion and belief. The fines and jailing of the two prisoners of conscience followed an early January raid by Kogon Anti-Terrorism Police and the ordinary police on the home of Aziz Pulatov. Jehovah's Witnesses were meeting together for worship, they told Forum 18 on 8 June. Numon Tukhtayev, Deputy Head of Kogon Anti-Terrorism Police, refused on 8 June to explain why the raid took place. The same day the ordinary police similarly refused to explain their actions. Judge Zarif Sherov, Chair of Kogon Criminal Court, found the accused guilty under Administrative Code Articles 184-2 ("Illegal production, storage, or import into Uzbekistan, with the intent to distribute or actual distribution, of religious materials by physical persons") and Article 240 ("Violation of the Religion Law"), Part 1 ("Carrying out of unauthorised religious activity, evasion by leaders of religious organisations of registration of the charter of the organisation, the unauthorised organisation and conduct of worship by religious ministers, and the organisation and conduct of special children's and youth meetings, as well as vocational, literature and other study groups not relating to worship"). Aziz Pulatov and Fazliddin Tukhtayev were fined 100 times the minimum monthly wage each; Akpar Pulatov, Shahzoda Pulatova, Mukaddas Rakhmatova, Zuhra Tashayeva, and Malyuda Kuldasheva were fined 50 times the minimum monthly wage each; Shahnoz Gulomova, Shahzoda Mavlyanova, Mukhabbatkhon Mirzayeva, Mokhidil Zairova, Gulnora Norova, Dilfuza Kobilova, Orom Khaydarova, Soliya Niyazova, Mahliyo Zhurayeva, Ibodillo Zhurayev, Gulchehra Ibadova, Shoista Mamedova, Shahin Norov, Zarina Kosimova, Munavvar Mardonova, Azamzhon Ismatilloyev, Farida Amonova, and Zarina Amonova were fined 30 times the minimum monthly wage each; and Gulbahor Mavlonova, Nilufar Ibrohimova, and Mizhgona Ismatillayeva were fined 5 times the minimum monthly wage each. Judge Sherov denied that he had jailed prisoners of conscience Andrei and Yelena Yu. "I do not know about the jailing," he claimed to Forum 18 on 9 June. However, the Judge admitted that he had imposed fines totalling 1,050 times the minimum monthly wage. Asked why he did this to people exercising their freedom of religion and belief, Sherov stated: "I explained to them during the hearing that the fines were given based on the existing law." Asked about the restrictions the Religion Law, Administrative and Criminal Codes put on the exercise of freedom of religion and belief, the Judge replied: "I cannot comment on that". He then said "let them appeal if they do not agree with our decision" before declining to talk further to Forum 18. (END) Source: http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2192
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