A Christian leader in western Uzbekistan's autonomous Karakalpakstan region has been jailed since July 25, accused by local police of illegal drug possession. Nicholai Rudinsky was arrested just a few hours after Nukus police had closed down a church youth camp he helped organize. The officials claimed that the local church had "no right to operate a religious camp."The camp was the second of two youth camps held during July in a camping facility near Nukus and sponsored by the local Mir Presbyterian Church. Some 50 children had attended the first camp session without incident. Nukus city authorities reportedly did not send the children home from the camp facility but replaced the church's camp staff with their own secular personnel.According to a local source, Rudinsky had come from a nearby city to visit the Mir church on July 25 when word came that the police were closing down the children's camp. As one of the camp organizers, Rudinsky promptly went to the facility, where he told the authorities that the camp was sponsored by a registered church and was legally funded.But after Rudinsky returned to the church, the source said, police put him under arrest and took him in for interrogation, which lasted four hours.Security police investigators told Rudinsky he could be imprisoned "for the rest of his life" if he did not cooperate with their investigation. To date, however, he has apparently refused to answer some of their questions concerning the organizers and sponsors of the camp.When the police searched him during the interrogations, the source said, "they claimed to have found 0.2 grams of opium in his pocket."Although the jailed Christian leader has been able to consult local lawyers, so far they have been unable ...1
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