Uzbekistan pardons Orthodox women partially

Natalya, a disabled from childhood, and her mother Valentina Pleshakova
A court in Tashkent has annulled a fine of two women, but found them guilty of distributing literature of Jehovah's Witnesses.

Having considered an appeal from Valentina Pleshakova and her daughter Natalya, a Tashkent city court judge on 23 August mitigated the sentence.

The two female Orthodox Christians were found guilty of conducting missionary work by a previous Mirzo-Ulugbek court ruling on 7 August and sentenced them to a fine of 20 minimal wages – 1.447m sums (approximately $516).

The trial of the women was preceded by a brutal police raid on 6 August when a group of special task forces stormed into their home in Tashkent and kept beating and insulting the women for several hours.

Even the fact that Natalya Pleshakova, 26, is a disabled person from her childhood did not stop the athletic men from bashing them. Her mother, Valentina, does not look healthy either. In order to feed her family, she often goes begging near an Orthodox church in Tashkent.

The new court ruling says that the previous court did not take into account a number of circumstances when issuing the fine: the mother’s age, her economic conditions, her daughter’s disability and the fact that they had not been convicted previously.

Therefore, Judge V Tsvetkov dropped charges against them, but only issued a warning.

Religious items

The same day, Tsvetkov considered it was a right decision to confiscate the women’s religious literature including magazines of the Jehovah's Witnesses and other 50 religious items, among them Orthodox icons, which have already been destroyed.

A well-known Tashkent-based lawyer, Sergey Mayorov, believes that Valentina and Natalya are innocent.

He said the women could have only been sentenced for distributing prohibited literature. But this did not happen either in fact as one cannot distribute something inside one's house.