Uzbekistan Church raided, 2 Pastors and 4 others arrested


Tashkent. June 21, 2005. During the worship service on Sunday 12th June, Bethany Church in Tashkent, Uzbekistan was raided by plain clothes policemen.

The police proclaimed that no church meetings were to be held in the building, before arresting six people. The police searched the church building for a collection box and literature, while continuing to threaten and intimidate the church members, taking the names and addresses of all present. The police were also looking for children, as they claimed that it was illegal for children to be present at church services. Thankfully the children were in a separate group meeting at the time, apparently disappointing the police and making them increasingly angry with the church members. Pastors Nikolai Shevchenko and Sergei Khripunov were taken for interrogation, along with four church members. The police demanded that they write explanatory notes about the church meetings, but Shevchenko and Khripunov refused and asked for their lawyer. The police continued to threaten the pastors, telling them that the church would be closed and they themselves imprisoned. They also threatened that they would be beaten up so hard that they would forget where they live. The police said they would detain the men until they signed papers, but when they refused all six were eventually released in the evening. The following day there were more threats from the police that the pastors should go to the police station to sign papers. However the fear is that if they attend the station they will once again be detained. The pastors have now gone into hiding until the court hearing which has been scheduled for Friday 17th June, to avoid being arrested again. Uzbek law states that if you are arrested three times for the same offence the penalty is a prison sentence, not merely a fine. Bethany Church, Tashkent, is linked to the Baptist denomination but has been prevented by the Uzbek authorities from registering officially.

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