Four years in a labor colony for being a Christian
SAMARKAND, Uzbekistan—The Samarkand Criminal Court sentenced Olim Turayev to four years in a labor colony for practicing his Christian faith. He was imprisoned for teaching his religious beliefs to others and for organizing illegal religious activity, acts that according to Articles 229-2 and 216 of the Uzbekistan Criminal Code are punishable crimes. However, none of those questioned during the court hearings confirmed any of the charges. Turayev was sentenced on Friday, April 25.
A resident of the neighborhood where Turayev lives described him to the court as being a good man. Earlier the same resident and others informed the police that “suspicious” people were visiting Turayev’s home for religious teaching. Based on this tip, Turayev’s home was raided by police on February 7. Before the end of that month, at least 20 homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Samarkand were raided. Personal copies of religious literature were confiscated. The Uzbekistan State Committee of Religious Affairs issued a statement that Jehovah’s Witnesses’ literature confiscated in Samarkand is illegal. The prosecutor offered the statement as proof that Turayev was guilty. Nevertheless, the court failed to establish a connection between Turayev and the literature found in the homes of the Samarkand Witnesses. Despite this failure, Turayev was convicted and sentenced. He is preparing to appeal the decision.
This is the third time since 2007 that one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Uzbekistan has faced a criminal conviction for religious activity. Turayev is the second one sentenced to a labor colony. Irfon Khamidov is currently serving his two-year sentence in such a facility.
U.S. contact: Philip Brumley, telephone (845) 306-0711
Russian-speaking contact: Yaroslav Sivulskiy, telephone +7-812-432-95-50