|For Immediate Release
July 19, 2007
In Uzbekistan, father of two imprisoned for teaching religion
SAMARKAND, Uzbekistan—Irfon Khamidov, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, faces two years in prison for teaching religion. The June 21 appeal in the Criminal Court of the Samarkand Region upheld the original May 14 conviction and sentencing, when he was immediately imprisoned.
Khamidov is 32 years old and has two children. His wife gave birth to their second son early in June. Khamidov’s conviction was based on Article 229-2 of Uzbekistan’s Criminal Code, which forbids teaching religion without special religious education and permission. According to Khamidov’s attorneys, on May 11, 2007, the two alleged “victims” of Khamidov’s “crime” of religious instruction stated under oath that they had never seen Khamidov before nor had they talked to him. However, the official trial court record omitted that sworn testimony. The appeal court similarly refused to hear the testimony of two observers present in the courtroom who could attest to hearing those “victims” deny under oath that Khamidov taught religion to them. Khamidov’s lawyers believe that the missing testimony would exonerate him.
Another serious violation of law included the use of a forged signature on a false document. Adding to the list of irregularities, there was no attorney present during Khamidov’s interrogations and other pre-trial proceedings as required by Uzbekistan law.
Reading from the Bible, Khamidov’s attorney quoted the words of the prophet Daniel and told the appeal court that Khamidov had committed “no hurtful act.” (Daniel 6:22) Khamidov’s attorneys are considering a supervisory protest to the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan.
This same appeal court in Samarkand will hear another appeal. That one also involves the criminal conviction of one of Jehovah’s Witnesses for teaching religion. Delafruz Arziyeva, 25, has appealed her sentence to two years of correctional labor.
The Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia
ul. Srednyaya, 6, pos. Solnechnoye, St. Petersburg 197739