On March 14, 2015, police in Turkmenabad raided a peaceful religious meeting held in the private home of Bahram Hemdemov. Thirty-eight Witnesses were arrested and charged with illegal religious activity. All were mistreated, 30 were fined, and 8 were sentenced to 15-day jail terms. The Lebap Regional Court later sentenced Mr. Hemdemov to four years in prison. He is currently detained in the Seydi labor camp. Jehovah’s Witnesses continue to work toward his release from this unjust imprisonment.
Arrested on a False Charge
Mansur Masharipov, a 32-year-old Witness, was taken into custody on June 30, 2016, by police who had been tracking him since 2014. He was charged with assaulting a police officer, although it was the police officers who had subjected him to rough physical mistreatment. On August 18, 2016, a Turkmenistan court sentenced him to one year of imprisonment in a general regime prison colony. Mr. Masharipov has appealed the conviction.
Respect for Freedom of Conscience, Religion, and Belief Still At Issue
In 2015 and 2016, the United Nations Human Rights Committee (CCPR) released nine favorable decisions on complaints submitted by Witness men who had been imprisoned in harsh conditions as conscientious objectors to military service. At present, Turkmenistan is not imprisoning conscientious objectors.
Two other Witnesses, imprisoned on false charges that were apparently intended to restrict religious activity, have also filed complaints with the CCPR. This body, in an April 2012 report on the human rights situation in Turkmenistan, exhorted the government to “ensure that its laws and practices relating to the registration of religious organizations respect the rights of persons to freely practice and manifest their religious beliefs as provided for under the [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights].” The Witnesses applied for registration in 2008, but the government has not acknowledged their application.
Prospects for Improvement
Jehovah’s Witnesses are grateful that the government of Turkmenistan has previously freed prisoners to correct injustices. * They look for a positive response from the government to the CCPR rulings—greater respect for human rights in general and specifically for the right to freedom of conscience, religion, and belief. An attorney representing the Witnesses stated: “Jehovah’s Witnesses are optimistic that a constructive dialogue can resolve the concerns of the Turkmenistan government in a manner that allows the Witnesses to preserve a good conscience in a calm life of godly devotion.”
August 18, 2016
Mansur Masharipov is convicted on a fabricated charge and sentenced to one year in prison.
CCPR releases five favorable decisions involving Witnesses who had been prosecuted for conscientious objection to military service.
December 14, 2015
CCPR releases favorable decisions involving three Witnesses who had been prosecuted for conscientious objection to military service. Another favorable decision was released previously, on May 19, 2015.
May 19, 2015
Bahram Hemdemov is convicted for religious activity and sentenced to a four-year prison term. He was arrested and put in pretrial detention two months earlier.
Two Witnesses imprisoned for conscientious objection to military service are released.
November 18, 2014
Total of two Witnesses imprisoned for conscientious objection to military service.
October 22, 2014
The President of Turkmenistan amnesties eight imprisoned Jehovah’s Witnesses and they are released.
September 30, 2014
Nine Witnesses are imprisoned—seven for conscientious objection to military service and two on fabricated charges as punishment for their religious activity.
September 2, 2014
Turkmenistan authorities release Bibi Rahmanova and change her four-year prison sentence to a conditional one.
August 18, 2014
Bibi Rahmanova convicted on fabricated charges and sentenced to four years in prison.
July 25, 2014
Seven Witnesses are in prison—five for conscientious objection to military service and two on fabricated charges as punishment for their religious activity.
April 6, 2014
Twenty-six Witnesses detained, of whom 13 were arrested without proof of any crime committed. The 13 Witnesses were sentenced to pay a fine.
Nine of Jehovah’s Witnesses remain imprisoned—eight for conscientious objection to military service and one under fabricated charges for religious activity.
August 29, 2013
Three Witnesses file complaints with the CCPR against Turkmenistan for failure to recognize their right to conscientiously object to military service.
May 1, 2013
Two Witnesses file complaints with the CCPR against Turkmenistan for failure to recognize their right to conscientiously object to military service.
January 24, 2013
Thirty police officers raid the home of Navruz Nasyrlayev within weeks after CCPR complaints communicated to Turkmenistan government. The police repeatedly beat the family and guests that were at the home.
September 7, 2012
Ten Witnesses file complaints with the CCPR against Turkmenistan for failure to recognize their right to conscientiously object to military service. Navruz Nasyrlayev is the lead complainant.
August 21, 2008
Jehovah’s Witnesses apply for state registration in Turkmenistan.