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Uzbekistan Blocking Shipment Of Bibles, Says They Require 'Expert Analysis'

A large shipment of Bibles is being prevented from clearing customs in Uzbekistan.

The government's Religious Affairs Committee, which oversees the country's system of compulsory censorship for all religious printed matter, has held up a shipment of 11,000 Bibles and Bible-related books in customs since May 19.

"There is no illegal literature," Natalia of the Uzbek Bible Society tells RFE/RL's Uzbek Service. "We receive only Bibles -- in Russian and Uzbek and in other languages -- and all are in accordance with our charter."

The Bibles and other books were sent to Uzbekistan by the Russian Bible Society.

"The Uzbek authorities restrict religious literature of all sorts," Felix Corley, editor of the religious news agency Forum 18, told RFE/RL from London. "They restrict Muslim literature. They restrict Christian literature. They restrict literature from other faiths such as Jehovah's Witnesses, the Hare Krishna community, the Baha'is. This is part of their strategy of controlling religious communities, restricting their activity, and reducing religious practice as far as they can."

According to Forum 18, the Religious Affairs Committee, in its letter to the Uzbek Bible Society, rejected the import request on the alleged grounds that copies of each of the titles were not presented to the committee for the required "expert analysis," that no requests from religious organizations in Uzbekistan were presented to show that they "need" the literature, and that the titles of the books in the shipment did not coincide with the titles on the paperwork.

Meanwhile, the Uzbek Bible Society says that the authorities have been questioning the group's legal status.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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