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Imprisoned for Their Faith

On September 10, 2019, the Khujand City Court sentenced 68-year-old Shamil Khakimov to seven and a half years in prison under the fabricated charge of ‘inciting religious hatred.’ * The court also imposed a three-year ban on his religious activities after he completes his sentence. He had been in pretrial detention since February 28, 2019, while the prosecutors and police prepared a criminal case against him.

Shamil Khakimov

Mr. Khakimov, a widower, is one of 24 Witnesses in Khujand and nearby towns in northern Tajikistan who were interrogated by officers of the Department of Organized Crime Control (DOCC) during the latter part of January and continuing through early February. On January 28, he received a phone call from an individual who was later identified as a member of the DOCC of the Sughd Region. The next day, police officers summoned some of Mr. Khakimov’s non-Witness acquaintances and fellow believers and questioned them about him. Then, on February 1, the Khujand office of the DOCC summoned Mr. Khakimov. After searching him, the officers began interrogating him about how he became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and about the structure of the Witnesses’ organization. He was not offered legal assistance.

The police officers detained Mr. Khakimov for eight hours and deprived him of the medical treatment he needed after recently undergoing leg surgery. He also suffers from high blood pressure. When the police finally took him home, they seized his laptop, tablet, Bible, several religious books and brochures, and his passport. Without his passport, Mr. Khakimov was unable to access his pension funds to continue the medical care he needed to recover from his surgery.

On February 26, the police arrested him. Two days later, at the request of the Sughd Regional Prosecutor’s Office, a judge at the Khujand City Court ruled to place him in pretrial detention. On March 12, a panel of three judges at the Sughd Regional Court upheld the ruling. Since then, the Khujand City Court extended his detention three times and ruled to keep him in prison during his trial proceedings.

Mr. Khakimov’s criminal trial began on August 5 in the Khujand City Court with Judge N. Nabizoda presiding. The judge changed the venue for the trial, and several hearings were held in the Khujand jail, where Mr. Khakimov remains imprisoned. On September 10 he was convicted, and on October 9 he lost on appeal.

Witness Conscientious Objector Abducted From Home

Jovidon Bobojonov

On October 4, 2019, military officers in the city of Khujand forcibly took 19-year-old Jovidon Bobojonov from his home to an enlistment office and placed him in custody. Two days later, he was put on a train against his will and taken to a military training center in the Lenin District near Dushanbe. He was later transferred to military unit No. 45075 where officers physically abused him and repeatedly put him under intense emotional stress in an effort to make him wear a military uniform and take the military oath of allegiance. At one point, six officers were involved in an incident where they twisted Jovidon’s hands behind his back and pushed him to the floor. With an army boot on his head and a knee pressed on his neck, the officers tried to force a military uniform on him. The more he resisted, the more they beat him, until he eventually passed out.

On January 28, 2020, a criminal case was initiated against Mr. Bobojonov for evading military service under Article 376, part 2, of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Tajikistan. On April 2, 2020, he was sentenced to two years of imprisonment in a general regime colony.

Prior to his abduction, Mr. Bobojonov was summoned in August 2019 to the district enlistment office, where he later filed a written statement asking to perform alternative civilian service. On October 1 he was declared fit for military service and then abducted on October 4. During Mr. Bobojonov’s ordeal, his parents, who are also Jehovah’s Witnesses, filed complaints with numerous Tajikistan officials, including the Presidential Administration and the Ombudsman’s office. In the responses the parents received, the authorities stated that since a law on alternative service has not been adopted, Mr. Bobojonov’s actions constitute a crime and therefore his abduction was lawful. Meanwhile, Mr. Bobojonov has been detained under harsh conditions since October 2019 and is physically and emotionally exhausted.

Time Line

  1. April 2, 2020

    Mr. Bobojonov sentenced to two years of imprisonment in a general regime colony.

  2. January 28, 2020

    Mr. Bobojonov charged with evasion of military service.

  3. October 9, 2019

    Appeal court confirms guilty decision rendered by Khujand City Court in the case of Mr. Khakimov.

  4. October 4, 2019

    Jovidon Bobojonov forcibly taken into custody because of his refusal to enlist in the military.

  5. September 10, 2019

    Mr. Khakimov is found guilty of the fabricated charge of ‘inciting religious hatred’ and sentenced to seven and a half years in prison.

  6. August 5, 2019

    Mr. Khakimov’s trial begins in the Khujand City Court. He remains imprisoned while his trial continues.

  7. June 25, 2019

    Khujand City Court extends Mr. Khakimov’s detention until July 26, 2019.

  8. May 31, 2019

    Sughd Regional Court upholds extension of Mr. Khakimov’s detention.

  9. May 24, 2019

    Khujand City Court extends Mr. Khakimov’s detention until June 26, 2019.

  10. April 29, 2019

    Sughd Regional Court upholds extension of Mr. Khakimov’s detention.

  11. April 23, 2019

    Khujand City Court extends Mr. Khakimov’s detention until May 26, 2019.

  12. March 12, 2019

    Sughd Regional Court upholds Khujand City Court decision to place Mr. Khakimov in pretrial detention for two months.

  13. February 28, 2019

    Khujand City Court places Mr. Khakimov in pretrial detention for two months.

  14. February 26, 2019

    Mr. Khakimov is arrested on fabricated charge of ‘inciting religious hatred.’

  15. February 1, 2019

    Shamil Khakimov is summoned to the police office, searched, and interrogated. After detaining him for eight hours, the police take Mr. Khakimov to his home, where they seize his personal belongings and passport.

  16. Late January–Early February 2019

    Officers of the DOCC in the city of Khujand search seven homes and interrogate 24 Witnesses, some for up to 14 hours.

^ par. 2 Article 189 (2) of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Tajikistan.