Uzbekistan—one of the four imprisoned Jehovah’s Witnesses is released
SAMARKAND, Uzbekistan—Irfon Khamidov, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and married father of two sons, was released on May 14, 2009, after completing a two-year sentence for teaching religion. He was ordered to appear the next morning at 9:00 before the police, who deported him that day to Tajikistan, the country of his citizenship. During the one night with his family, he saw his two-year-old son for the first time.
Although Article 31 of the Uzbekistan Constitution assures freedom of religion and Article 29 provides for the freedom to distribute information about religious beliefs, Khamidov was sentenced to two years in prison and the appeal of his conviction was denied. Attorneys for Khamidov had also filed a supervisory appeal with the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan, but this too was denied. There were serious factual errors in the trial. One example was the sworn testimony of the two alleged “victims” of Khamidov’s “crime” of religious instruction, who admitted that they had never seen Khamidov before nor had they talked to him.
While it is encouraging to hear that Irfon Khamidov has been released, there are three of Jehovah’s Witnesses remaining in prison for sentences of up to four years for organizing “illegal religious activity.” In 2008, Abdubannob Ahmedov and Sergey Ivanov were sentenced to four years and three and one-half years in prison, respectively, in Margilan, in the Fergana region of Uzbekistan, for organizing illegal religious activity. Olim Turayev, a medical doctor and married father of three sons, recently completed only the first year of his four-year sentence in a labor colony near Samarkand, also for “illegal religious activity” and for teaching religion.
Appeals of the convictions of these three have also been denied. A formal request in their behalf to Uzbekistan’s State Committee of Religious Affairs to support an amnesty for these imprisoned Jehovah’s Witnesses was not successful. Attorneys for the three are preparing further appeals to the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan.
Jehovah’s Witnesses will continue making requests of Uzbek authorities to engage in constructive dialogue regarding these prisoners.
U.S. contact: Philip Brumley, telephone (845) 306-0711
Russian-speaking contact: Yaroslav Sivulskiy, telephone +7-812-432-95-50