Uzbekistan: Violent police assault on Protestant

Uzbek Christians studying the Bible(Photo: ASSIST News Service)

Police in Uzbekistan have violently physically assaulted a local Protestant, and charged him with committing an offence after he insisted on making a formal complaint about police brutality.

Mushfig Bayram, the Central Asia Correspondent of the Forum 18 News Service, said that Nodir Akhadov of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan had told the news service that in the north-western Khorezm Region of the country, police had violently physically assaulted Sardorbek Nurmetov, a local Protestant.

Bayram stated that on June 14, 2013, Police Captain Shukhrat Masharipov, Chief of the local police Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Urgench, stopped Nurmetov in the street near Urgench's railway station.

He belongs to an unregistered local Protestant church, and who lives in the Region's Khanki District. Captain Masharipov was accompanied by another unknown officer who would not identify himself.

"Under the guise of passport control they took Nurmetov to the nearest police station, where they confiscated a memory stick from him containing Christian materials local Protestants told Forum 18 on July 31, 2013," he said.

"Of course they know who Nurmetov is, and it is no accident that he was stopped by the police," a Protestant who knows Nurmetov told Forum 18.

Police officers then brought Nurmetov to Urgench City Police Station, where Bayram claimed, "Captain Masharipov five times hit Nurmetov with a thick book on the head and then delivered blows to his head and chest, and kicked his legs. As a result of this, Nurmetov became 'dizzy, weakened, and felt like vomiting."

He went on to say, "Captain Masharipov refused to call for an ambulance, despite Nurmetov's requests for this. In violation of Uzbek law, Nurmetov was kept at Urgench's main police station from 14.30 to 21.00, and not allowed to move, drink water, or go to the toilet, Protestants told Forum 18."

A Protestant informant told the journalist, "Masharipov treated Nurmetov brutally and tortured him, which is a severe violation of his rights and the Criminal Code."

Forum 18 says that violence and torture, or threats of this, by police and other officials are "routine" the United Nations Committee Against Torture has found.

Home searched

Mushfig Bayram added that Captain Masharipov and other officers then forcibly put Nurmetov into a police car and took him to his home in Khanka District, about 20 kilometers [13 miles] away from Urgench. With three more policemen from Khanka Police Station, they broke into Nurmetov's private home where they confiscated Nurmetov's laptop computer, three Christian books and a DVD disk.

"Police Captain Masharipov did not answer his office number but refused to talk to Forum 18 on August 2, 2013, on his mobile phone, claiming that it is a wrong number," he wrote.

Hospital collaborates with perpetrators of assault

The story continued by saying that, after the departure of the police, Nurmetov went Khanka District Hospital for treatment for his injuries and to get these formally certified. Doctor Zafar Kalandarov, who received Nurmetov at the hospital, informed the police, following which, two officers of Khanka Police - one of which took part in the raid on Nurmetov's home - came to the hospital.

Uzbek Christians praying

"When the officers found that Nurmetov wanted to get his injuries formally certified, they forcibly took him from the hospital with no regard to his health. They told Doctor Kalandarov that they were taking Nurmetov to the police station to investigate what had happened," the correspondent said.

"At Khanka Police Station the officers tried to pressure and talk Nurmetov into not complaining about them and Captain Masharipov. Despite this, Nurmetov did submit a formal complaint at the police station, demanded that action be taken against Masharipov."

Bayram stated that Nurmetov was then released and told to go home, even though he asked police to "take him back to the hospital as he felt ill."

Hospital refuses ambulance

He added that coming home, Nurmetov asked his wife to call for an ambulance.

"When they heard the reasons of the call, doctors from Khanka Hospital refused to send an ambulance. They claimed that none were available," local Protestants stated.

Nurmetov had to take a taxi to the hospital and, at the hospital, Doctor Kalandarov "fearing police reprisals refused to write a medical report, but gave Nurmetov a painkiller injection after examining the bruises on his body", the Protestants told Forum 18. He then told Nurmetov to go home and undergo out-patient treatment without formally certifying the injuries.

Victim not perpetrator charged

Bayram said that Urgench City Prosecutor's Office commissioned T. Ataniyazov, who local Protestants described as "an inexperienced probationer instead of a qualified, experienced Prosecutor," to deal with Nurmetov's formal complaint.

Ataniyazov ordered a forensic medical examination of Nurmetov, without, Protestants claimed, "thoroughly investigating Nurmetov's complaint and case files." On June 18, 2013, Nurmetov underwent forensic examination, and Ataniyazov sent the results of the examination to Urgench City Police for investigation.

"Urgench Police, instead of taking action against Captain Masharipov and others implicated in the crime, opened an administrative case against Nurmetov for illegally storing religious materials in his home," said the story. "Nurmetov has also made complaints to Uzbek President and other high state authorities."

Ruslan Bekmetov, the Secretary of Urgench City Court told Forum 18 on August 2, 2013, that Judge Makhmud Makhmudov will hear the case on 11 August 11, 2013.

Protestants confirmed to Forum 18 that a summons to this effect had been issued to Nurmetov. Asked what part of the Code of Administrative Offences Nurmetov had violated, Bekmetov said that Urgench Police had opened the case but would not give any details.

Asked whether the Court knew about Nurmetov being violently physically assaulted by Urgench Police, Bekmetov replied "No."

Asked whether Judge Makhmudov was available to discuss the case he asked to call back after the lunch. When Forum 18 called back, an official stated that the judge was not available and would not connect Forum 18 with other officials.

Bayram's story concluded with: "Captain Masharipov is already known for violations of freedom of religion or belief, having personally led two raids in January on the home of local Protestant Sharofat Allamova. These led to her being sentenced in April on criminal charges to 18 months' corrective labor, for the 'illegal production, storage, import or distribution of religious literature.'

"She has been placed in a low-paid state job, her salary being further reduced by having to pay 20 per cent of it to the state during her sentence."