"UZBEKISTAN: 'WE DEFEND HUMAN RIGHTS'?
In what seems to be a widening crackdown against religious freedom in Uzbekistan, the police and NSS secret police have raided several churches and a Baptist has been fined for leading services in her home. Yesterday (18 May), a group of Protestants in the capital Tashkent were detained following a police raid on a private flat. Humanitarian aid agencies suspected of involvement in Christian missionary activity are also being closed. Irmuhamad Shermatov, of the Justice Ministry's Department for the Defence of Human Rights, has insisted to Forum 18 News Service that 'we defend human rights,' but refused to say what the Ministry was doing to end attacks on religious freedom. A colleague of Shermatov's in central Uzbekistan told Forum 18 that the Justice Ministry has closed down two Protestant churches. She refused to say how in Uzbekistan church members could freely practice their faith, as the country's international human rights obligations require."