Secret police keep close watch on Uzbekistan churches

By September 19, 2007

Uzbekistan (MNN) — Forum 18 News has reported that Uzbekistan churches are being closely monitored by the secret police. Adding to the resistance already placed against religious activity, the Uzbekistan National Security Service (NSS) increased its surveillance of churches and the communities that surround them.

According to the report, microphones were planted in churches and spies were recruited among church leadership. Covert agents spied on worship services and filmed churchgoers as they left the service.

The agents "have a vehicle with tinted windows, and 10 minutes before the end of the service they wind down the window enough to allow them to film everyone leaving," says one Christian.

Details about community and church leaders are especially desired by the NSS.

"[The NSS] especially tries to recruit among the leaders, trying to find out what's going on within each community, who is going where, how much money each gets, and where the community gets its money from," according to one source.

"As in Soviet times, the secret police wants to know, not just to smash religious communities, but simply to know," says another source.

Press spokesman for the NSS Olimzhan Turakulov refused to release a reason for the surveillance. Of the former Soviet republics, Uzbekistan has the most restrictive control of religious practices.

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