Barnabas Fund, an organization helping Christians in predominantly Muslim nations, said Pastor Salavat Serikbaev was arrested last week on three charges of "incitement to religious hatred", "running an illegal religious organization" and "distributing materials promoting religious extremism".
"These are the same three charges which were brought [earlier this year] against Pastor Dmitri (David) Shestakov," who was recently sentenced to four-years in one of Uzbekistan’s open labor camps in what fellow believers said was a "retaliation" for his Christian work
The pastor, who is currently in custody, lodged an appeal last month against the sentence, however "David had not heard anything from the Court by 17th April," Barnabas Fund added in a statement obtained by BosNewsLife.
David’s lawyer is reportedly trying to pursue the Court of Appeal to keep the legal process running. "The outcome of David’s case is likely to have a bearing on Pastor Salavat’s trial," which was due to begin in April, Barnabas Fund said..
The group said it had urged its supporters to "pray that the charges against Pastor Salavat will be dropped and he will be released from custody," and that "the Court of Appeal will begin a re-trial," for Pastor Shestakov. It also demands that "Uzbek authorities will not see Christians as a threat and will cease this persecution."
Uzbek officials were not immediately available for comment. Human rights observers have said the developments are part of the "ruthlessly authoritarian approach" by President Islam Karimov and his fear of perceived religious and political threats to his power base.
In 2005 at least hundreds of people died when security forces opened fire on anti-government demonstrators in Andijan. Karimov has dominated the country’s leadership since 1989 when he rose to be Communist Party leader in then Soviet Uzbekistan, experts say. (With reporting from Uzbekistan and BosNewsLife Monitoring).