|For Immediate Release
July 25, 2007
Turkmenistan frees prisoner of conscience
ASHGABAT, TURKMENISTAN- Nuryagdy Gayyrov was released on July 23, 2007. The prosecutor appealed the court’s decision to imprison Gayyrov for 18 months, claiming that such a punishment would be too harsh and asked for a two-year suspended sentence. The court accepted the recommendation.
Although he was not beaten while in prison, Gayyrov reports that he was interrogated repeatedly about his religious beliefs and activities. Prison conditions led to his having convulsions and losing consciousness because of the intense heat and lack of ventilation. Gayyrov spent a month in prison and was denied the right to see any of his family members or to have any legal representation. He was taken to an unannounced court hearing on July 18, 2007, where he was sentenced to 18 months in the Seydi labor colony for evading military service, a “crime” for which he had already served time. On the same day, Gayyrov learned of the death of his mother when officials finally allowed someone to visit, a friend and fellow Jehovah’s Witness who came with the sad news.
Meanwhile, other Witnesses, Aleksandr Zuyev and Bayram Ashirgeldyyev, have been given suspended two-year prison sentences for the neutral position they have chosen as Christians facing the question of military service. Additionally, it is reported that Mansur Masharipov from Dashhowuz has been recalled by the military draft board. He was among the four Jehovah’s Witnesses given a special amnesty by Turkmenistan’s former president in 2005.
The release of Nuryagdy Gayyrov is a welcome development applauded internationally by lovers of peace and freedom of worship. This positive action upholds such basic human rights for conscientious citizens as are enshrined in the Constitution of Turkmenistan and international conventions.
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