An Uzbek imam is facing embezzlement charges for allegedly misusing mosque donations to build a chicken coop.
A law enforcement official in the eastern province of Andijon told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service on May 12 that the imam of the Kholid-ibn-Valid mosque in the town of Asaka has been accused of diverting $27,000 earmarked for charitable purposes and mosque maintenance.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the imam, his aide, and a mosque accountant spent the money to purchase chickens and build a large chicken coop.
A mosque representative told RFE/RL that the chicken coop was built as an investment "because under Islamic rules we aren't allowed to lend the money to earn interest."
"We were planning to sell the chickens in the future and return the money and profits to the mosque," he said, adding that "this act was done with good intentions of safekeeping the mosque's money."
Asaka authorities say the chicken coop had not been registered as mosque property.
Earlier, mosque officials had claimed that the money was spent for mosque renovation works.
The law enforcement official said the imam and his aide are facing theft and embezzlement charges, while the accountant was dismissed from his job.
He didn't disclose the imam's name, citing an ongoing criminal probe.
In 2015, an imam in Tashkent's Yashnabad district was accused of embezzling some $2,800 of mosque donations.