A Hare Krishna festival in Uzbekistan's central city of Samarkand [Samarqand] and a birthday party of a Protestant in Nukus, in the north-western Karakalpakstan [Qoraqalpoghiston] region, were raided and halted by the authorities, police have confirmed to Forum 18 News Service. Police are gathering evidence to open administrative cases against Zafar Kasimov, a Hare Krishna devotee in Samarkand. In violation of the country's international human rights commitments, this is a criminal offence in Uzbekistan. Three other members of Zhumaniyazova's church were fined in early December 2008, by Khodjeli District Criminal Court, for unauthorised religious activity.
Samarkand Regional Criminal Police raided the Hare Krishna gathering in Samarkand on 7 February as devotees were about to celebrate a religious festival, the appearance day of Sri Nityananda. Police detained Kasimov and several other devotees and held them overnight. "All devotees except Kasimov were released the next morning, 8 February," a source from Samarkand, who wanted to remain unnamed, told Forum 18 that day. Kasimov was released from detention late in the evening on 8 February, another source told Forum 18 on 9 February.
Samarkand's Regional Criminal Police confirmed to Forum 18 on 9 February that Kasimov was released from detention. The officer who answered the phone said that Kasimov is "only" being investigated for an administrative violation. "I don't know when the case will be brought to court," he said. The officer also refused to say under what article Kasimov is being investigated. "I can only tell you that for a second such violation, Kasimov will be made criminally liable."
The Samarkand Regional Police told Forum 18 that alongside the Criminal Police, the National Security Service (NSS) secret police are also involved in the case.
A source from Samarkand told Forum 18 that the Hare Krishna devotees had rented a small hall, and invited some fellow devotees and friends for the celebration of their festival. "When the celebration started, several police officers broke in and stopped the programme," the source reported. "The police arrested Kasimov and some of the devotees." The source pointed out that the Hare Krishna community is still prohibited in Samarkand, as it is not registered. "Probably Kasimov will be charged with organising unauthorised religious activity," the source stated.