In February 2016, the government of Turkmenistan declared an amnesty that set free hundreds of prisoners but did not release Bahram Hemdemov. Less than three months later, a supervisory appeal of his criminal conviction and imprisonment was rejected by the Supreme Court of Turkmenistan. On August 15, 2016, Mr. Hemdemov’s attorney filed a complaint on his behalf with the UN Human Rights Committee.

Religious Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Turkmenabad

At the time of his arrest in March 2015, Mr. Hemdemov was hosting a peaceful religious meeting of fellow Witnesses in his home in Turkmenabad. Police officers arrived without a warrant, invaded and searched the home, seized personal belongings, and mistreated all in attendance.

An attorney representing Mr. Hemdemov observed: “The police singled out Bahram Hemdemov for severe mistreatment in an attempt to threaten and intimidate other Witnesses living in Turkmenabad.” Despite the mistreatment by authorities, Mr. Hemdemov has not compromised his beliefs.

Prospects for Release

Jehovah’s Witnesses hope that the government of Turkmenistan will release Mr. Hemdemov from prison soon. It would be a gracious gesture by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov to release Mr. Hemdemov when he next grants amnesty.

Mr. Hemdemov’s wife, Gulzira, and their four children dearly miss him, and along with fellow Witnesses in the community, they long to welcome him back home. The Witnesses in Turkmenistan respectfully request that the government allow them to worship together in peace, without interference by local authorities.