Tajik Jehovah’s Witness Given ‘Unjust’ Prison Sentence For ‘Religious Hatred’
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KHUJAND, Tajikistan -- A court in Tajikistan's northeastern city of Khujand has sentenced a Jehovah's Witness to 7 1/2 years in prison after finding him guilty of inciting religious hatred.
The court also ruled on September 10 that after serving his term, Shamil Hakimov, will be barred from working in religious organizations for three years.
Hakimov called the verdict and sentence "unjust" and said he was just sharing his religious views.
Tajik authorities banned Jehovah's Witnesses in the Central Asian state in 2008.
In autumn 2017, a court in the southern Tajik region of Khatlon sentenced an 18-year-old army conscript, Daniil Islomov, to six months in prison for refusing to wear a military uniform because of his beliefs as a Jehovah's Witness.
In Russia, the Jehovah's Witnesses were labeled an extremist organization and banned in 2017. The group has reported a growing number of raids, detentions and torture of its adherents across Russia in recent months.
Earlier on September 10, two high-ranking regional officers in Russia's Investigative Committee were banned from entering the United States for alleged "gross violations of human rights."
They are suspected of leading a group of Surgut Investigative Committee officers in subjecting at least seven Jehovah's Witness believers "to suffocation, electric shocks, and severe beatings during interrogation."
Headquartered in the United States, the Jehovah's Witnesses have been viewed with suspicion in Russia for decades, for its members' views about military service, voting, and government authority in general.
Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.