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AUGUST 27, 2014

Mother of Four-Year-Old Receives Unjust Prison Sentence in Turkmenistan

In a makeshift courtroom in Dashoguz, Turkmenistan, Judge Gagysyz Orazmuradov unjustly sentenced 33-year-old Bibi Rahmanova to prison under fabricated charges. On August 18, Bibi, a mother of a four-year-old son, was found guilty of “assaulting a policeman” and of “hooliganism.” * The judge imposed a severe punishment—four years in a general regime colony, a prison for criminals.

Seized at the Train Station

Bibi’s ordeal began on the evening of July 5, 2014, when she and her husband, Vepa Tuvakov, along with their son, went to a train station in Dashoguz to pick up religious literature and personal possessions sent by a friend from Ashgabad. Just after the Tuvakovs retrieved the luggage, six male police officers in plain clothes detained them and demanded to see the bags’ contents. Finding a laptop computer and religious literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the police screamed obscenities and threatened that their son would soon be an orphan.

Bibi started recording the encounter on her cell phone and hid the phone under her blouse when the officers tried to take it from her. The officers grabbed her by the hair, kicked and beat her, and seized her by the hands. While she was under restraint, one officer lifted up her blouse and touched her inappropriately as he retrieved the phone. Bibi fended off the assaults but did not resist arrest or attack the police.

Bibi and Vepa with their son

The officers then took the Tuvakov family to the police station. The police demanded that Vepa sign a prepared written statement. He refused. The police beat him repeatedly while Bibi and their son were in another room. Vepa still refused to sign. Bibi also refused to sign the prepared statement and was beaten as well. The police kept Bibi and her son overnight, releasing them the following day. * After Bibi filed complaints with Turkmen officials, Vepa was released a few days later, on July 11. Undaunted, the Dashoguz City Police soon began a criminal investigation against both Bibi and her husband.

Arrest, Detention, and Trial

Bibi was charged on August 6, placed in a detention center on August 8, and stood trial on August 18. During the trial, Judge Orazmuradov demonstrated a clear bias. He repeatedly cut off Bibi’s attorney when she attempted to defend her client. When the police gave contradictory testimony, the judge prevented Bibi’s attorney from questioning them. The judge also stopped Vepa from testifying when he spoke of the abusive treatment of Bibi by police and refused to consider the audio recording of the events. The judge rendered a guilty verdict and sentenced Bibi to four years in prison.

Bibi must enter her appeal by August 28, and until then she is confined in the DZD-7 detention facility. If her appeal is rejected, she will be transferred to a general regime colony, likely in the desert in Seydi. She will be deprived not only of her liberty but also of the opportunity to nurture her son during his formative years.

Although Vepa has not been formally charged, there is a strong probability that he will be indicted, tried under false charges, and unjustly sentenced to prison. If this occurs, their son will be deprived not only of his mother but also of his father. There are no grounds for this injustice.

Plea for Justice

Turkmenistan has a history of mistreating Jehovah’s Witnesses and denying their basic human rights. Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide, along with many others who respect human dignity and the right to worship freely, look to the government of Turkmenistan to right these wrongs.

^ Hooliganism connected with resisting a law enforcement officer is punishable by imprisonment of up to five years.

^ Their son was released to a relative on the morning of July 6; Bibi was released later that day.