Uzbek court bans Jehovah Witnesses

Tashkent, Uzbekistan - A court in the Uzbek Kashkadarya province has banned the Jehovah Witnesses, a religious group, and amnestied one of the organizers of the group.

"The trial found that investigators were right when they charged Ramil Gareyev with breaking the law on religious organizations," the court told Interfax on Wednesday.

Gareyev was a member of the Jehovah Witnesses, a religious organization that is not registered in the province. He gathered his flock in the house of a local resident, the court said. The group was involved in missionary activities banned in Uzbekistan, in particular it touted the main tenets of the Jehovah Witnesses' ideology and spread propaganda literature.

However, Gareyev was amnestied based on an amnesty declare by the senate to mark the 14th anniversary of the adoption of Uzbekistan's Constitution, the court said.

According to the Committee for Religious Affairs, a group of Jehovah Witnesses is officially registered only in the town of Chirchik in the Tashkent province. Today some 2,222 religious organizations representing 16 confessions have been registered with Uzbek justice agencies. The vast majority of them profess Islam, since 88% of Uzbeks are Muslims.

As far as Christian religious organizations are concerned, there are 164 of them in the country. Moreover, there are eight Jewish communities, six Bahai communities, a Hare Krishna community and a Buddhist temple in Uzbekistan.