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Uzbekistan Shrugs Off Criticism Of New Religion Law

(RFE/RL) July 3, 2006 -- Aziz Abidov, spokesman for the Uzbek State Religious Affairs Committee, today rejected criticism from a religious freedom organization over a new law on religion in Kyrgyzstan.

Last week, the Norway-based group Forum 18 expressed concerns about new restrictions on the publication and distribution of religious materials without a license and increased punishment for proselytizing.

Forum 18 pointed to closures or fines imposed on several Western-funded aid groups for alleged attempts to convert Uzbeks to "a religion of a Protestant character."

Abidov said the group was "beating the air" and "using any occasion to accuse Uzbekistan of persecuting believers."

Abidov said that despite existing bans, there are a number of religious groups who "continue aggressive missionary activities, ignoring local realities."

Uzbekistan's Supreme Muslim Council released a statement on June 30 fully supporting the government's policies on religion.

(compiled from agency reports)

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