Saturday, April 12, 2008

UZBEKISTAN: Chief Rabbi faces expulsion

Jews praying in the synagogue in Ferghana, Uzbekistan.

11 April 2008
By Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service

The Justice Ministry has refused to renew the accreditation of Uzbekistan's Chief Rabbi, Abe David Gurevich, and one of his colleagues, Forum 18 News Service has learned.

The rejection of the accreditation renewal for him and for Malka Gurevich, who also works for the Tashkent branch of the Hasidic World Lubavitch Movement, came in a 10 April letter from the Justice Ministry. "Today I received the letter saying that I was not qualified to get the renewal of my accreditation," the Chief Rabbi told Forum 18 from the Uzbek capital on 10 April. He complained that the letter did not specify exactly what the reasons for the denial were.

The community is now concerned that their Chief Rabbi might be forced to leave Uzbekistan. The move against Gurevich comes in the midst of harassment of other faiths in Uzbekistan, including Muslims, Protestant Christians and Jehovah's Witnesses. Forum 18 tried to find out from the government's Religious Affairs Committee why so many religious communities are facing harassment, but Committee official Begzot Kadyrov told Forum 18 not to "disturb us with stupid questions about religious liberties".

The one-page Ministry of Justice letter, of which Forum 18 has seen a copy, states that Gurevich and his colleague exceeded their authority during their work in Uzbekistan, and that their activities went beyond the framework of the purpose and tasks of their organisation as indicated in its charter. The letter was signed by Jalol Abdusattarov, the head of the Ministry's Department for Public Associations and Religious Organisations. Forum 18 tried to reach Abdusattarov on 10 April to find out why Gurevich and his colleague were being denied accreditation. Abdusattarov's assistant, who would not give his name, said Abdusattarov was not in the office and asked Forum 18 to call back. However, each time Forum 18 did so, Abdusattarov was not there to answer the call.Gurevich told Forum 18 that Abdusattarov had confirmed to him on 4 April that the Ministry was considering his request to renew the accreditation. However, the Chief Rabbi added that since receiving the rejection letter, he has had no success trying to discuss the issue with the Ministry. "I have not been able to reach Abdusattarov to ask him about the reasons," Gurevich told Forum 18. "Each time I call the Ministry someone picks up the phone and says he is not there." Gurevich told Forum 18 that he went through the same process in 1998, when the authorities would not renew his accreditation. "They did the same things with me 10 years ago," he told Forum 18. "But then they came back and apologised for the mistake which was made by not renewing my accreditation."Asked why he thought he was being denied accreditation now, Gurevich pointed to articles about him in the news media alleging that he had misused finances donated for the community. The articles appeared shortly before the Ministry refused to renew his accreditation. (continues at Forum 18)


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