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'I'm Jehovah's Witness, Not Hizb Ut-Tahrir!'

Hizb ut-Tahrir leaflets and literature -- it has been reported that activists trying to spread the word for this group sometimes try various ruses to camouflage their activity.
This was an original, but unsuccessful, ploy adopted by two young men in southern Kyrgyzstan recently.

Kyrgyz news agencies have been running reports of two young men, aged 18 and 21, who were questioned by police about their activities in the town of Kadamzhai.

Police had received information that the two men -- both citizens of Uzbekistan -- had moved to Kadamzhai and were trying to recruit new members for the banned Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir.

When police confronted, the two Uzbek nationals -- "J. Nosirov" and "I. Kambarov" -- said they were followers of Jehovah's Witnesses and their activities in the area were on behalf of that Christian group.

News agencies cited police as saying a search of the two men and their apartment uncovered books, drawings, and computer discs with material for Hizb ut-Tahrir, but here the stories differ slightly.

AKIpress reported that "two seized discs belong to Hizb ut-Tahrir and the others belong to the Jehovah's Witnesses religious organization," whereas Internet news agency said "the seized discs contained information from a Hizb ut-Tahrir conference that was held abroad."

Both sources said the two Uzbeks also had "maps" of the Kadamzhai area, with adding that "one can only guess why they needed them [the maps]."

Members of banned groups, and even those who are just very pious, have adopted a number of techniques to avoid entanglements with law enforcement and security force personnel.

In the late 1990s, in Uzbekistan's section of the Ferghana Valley, men removed pockets from their trousers to prevent "evidence" from being planted on them.

Throughout the Ferghana Valley some members of banned Islamic groups even kept alcohol visibly placed in their homes and offered police or security forces a drink during searches.

The logic was that a devout Islamic extremist would never have alcohol in their home.

But Nasirov and Kambarov's trick of claiming to be from a Christian group rather than a banned Islamic group appears to be something new.

In their case it did not work, and both are now serving seven-year jail sentences.

-- Bruce Pannier