70-year-old Tajik Jehovah’s Witness marks two years in jail

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Recall, the criminal trial of Shamil Hakimov, who faced charges of allegedly “inciting religious hatred”, began on August 5, 2019 but the case was postponed to provide the defendant with an interpreter into Russian. The trial resumed on August 20, 2019.

According to the investigation, Shamil Hakimov lived in Dushanbe until 2016 and then moved to the northern city of Buston (formerly Chkalovsk) allegedly for propagation of ideas of Jehovah's Witnesses organization, which is banned in Tajikistan.

Hakimov was prosecuted for books, other literature, photos, videos, audios, computer files and mobile phone data seized from him and other community members. The Prosecutor's Office claims these materials contain “features of extremist activity.” Hakimov denied any wrongdoing.

The investigation reportedly revealed a 2016 state “expert analysis” by three imams claiming the distribution of a Tajik Bible translation (a Stockholm-published version used by many different Christian denominations) causes “confrontation.”

The analysis – conducted by three local imams – was carried out at the request of the State Committee for National Security (SCNS).

The imams and the Committee on Religious Affairs concluded: “The book does not correspond to our society of Hanafi Muslims, its propaganda and distribution among the Muslim people does not meet the goals of our society, and its distribution among Hanafi Muslims causes confrontation and schism, and leads to misunderstandings.”

The Khujand city sentenced a 68-year-old Shamil Hakimov to 7 ½ years in prison on September 10, 2019. Hakimov is also barred from engaging in any activities in religious institutions during three years after release. .

The court's ruling was nearly identical to the prosecution's earlier demand for a nine-year prison term.

The U.S. State Department designates Tajikistan a “country of particular concern” for its “severe religious freedom violations.”

The Tajik authorities banned Jehovah's Witnesses throughout the country in October 2007. The banning order stated: “The religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses carried out its activity in violation of Republic of Tajikistan legislation by distributing in public places and at the homes of citizens, i.e. among members and followers of other religions, propagandistic books on their religion, which has become a cause of discontent on the part of the people.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses were banned in Tajikistan for allegedly causing “discontent” and for conscientious objection to military service.

Source: Asia-Plus