UZBEKISTAN: Pastor sentenced to four years “re-education”

Dmitry Shestakov, a 37 year-old Pentecostal pastor, has been sentenced to four years “re-education” beacause of his religious activity. The sentence is to be served in an open work camp, as the court ruled that Dmitry had to be deprived of his freedom “given the absence of the possibility of re-educating him without isolation from society”

On 9 March, Dmitry was found guilty of “illegal organisation of social or religious organisations” and of “distributing materials containing ideas of religious extremism”. /P> The judge also decreed that 12 videotapes, seven CDs, two audiotapes and one copy of an Uzbek-language translation of a book “Jesus: More than a Prophet” – confiscated as “material evidence” during a June 2006 raid – to be destroyed.

Dmitry’s lawyer lodged an appeal on 16 March, but no date has yet been set for a hearing at Andijan Regional Court. Dmitry remains in Prison No. 1 in Andijan until the appeal is heard. The prison administration, which is headed by Lieutenant-Colonel Pulatov, has banned Dmitry from kneeling to pray and confiscated his copy of the New Testament. Instead of the New Testament, he has been offered the Koran to read.

Andijan was the centre of an anti-government uprising in May 2005 and Dmitry is being held in the prison which was stormed by some of the rebels during the uprising. Uzbekistan’s Religious Affairs Committee has refused to comment on the case despite the fact that Dmitry has frequently been attacked through the state-run media.

Dmitry – who will celebrate his 38th birthday on 9th April – has led his Pentecostal congregation under the auspices of the Full Gospel Church in part of the family home in Andijan’s Sultan Jura mahalla (city district) since 2003. It remains unclear where in Uzbekistan Dmitry will serve his “re-education” sentence and whether his wife Marina and their three children will be able to join him close by. However, if he violates any rules during the four-year term he could be transferred to prison. (Forum 18)