By BosNewsLife News Center
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TASHKENT/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)-- Two Christian families in Uzbekistan faced uncertain future Wednesday, May 14, after receiving massive fines for meeting in a private home to read the Bible and pray together, church members and rights investigators said.
Alisher Abdullayev and Veniamin Nemirov were fined along with another member of their home church in October 2012 for unregistered religious activity and teaching religion "illegally", added religious rights group Forum 18.
They reportedly received the fines following a police raid on a Christian gathering in Veniamin’s home in the central Samarkhand region.
As families have refused to pay the fines on principle, private items have been confiscated by the authorities, reported religious rights group Forum 18.
On March 26, two bailiffs apparently came to Alisher’s home and seized a vacuum cleaner, electric heater and mobile phone. Soon after, on April 7. the bailiffs went to Veniamin’s home and confiscated the family car, though neither of the men was home at the time of the raids, Christians said.
The raids come at a difficult time. Both men have large families with Alisher having six children and Veniamin twelve. In published remarks, Veniamin, who says he has a very low income, complained that the "confiscations were illegal as authorities have a one-year time limit to penalise the non-payment of a fine."
Authorities have defended the move saying they were just "a bit late with these confiscations" due to a heavy workload.
Forum 18 said the Abdullayevs and Nemirovs face more difficulties, as on April 28 "both Alisher and Veniamin were fined again", along with their wives and another church member, Lyubov Lyubivaya, for teaching "religion illegally."
They were each reportedly ordered to pay 961,050 Soms ($420), ten times the minimum monthly wage.
Veniamin said that he believes the authorities are specifically targeting him, Alisher and Lyubov.
"We are not meeting in my home to teach religion … but for prayer and Bible reading… They see us as active participants of unregistered religious meetings," he said in published remarks.
The latest fines followed a raid by anti-terrorism police on Veniamin’s home during a Sunday gathering on March 9, according to rights investigators.
Officers allegedly filmed and harassed those present and seized religious literature. Veniamin insisted that neither he nor the others penalised will pay the fines. “We don’t consider we violated any laws by praying in our home.”
In addition to this fine and the one issued in 2012, Veniamin was fined ten times the minimum monthly wage in September 2010 for his Christian activities.
Uzbekistan, a former Soviet nation, allows only registered religious groups to hold meetings for worship or to teach religion, even to their own members, according to Christians familiar with the situation.
(BosNewsLife (2004-2014) is the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians. It has been 'Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals' since May 2004).
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