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MAY 17, 2017

Kazakhstan Imprisons Ailing Jehovah’s Witness and Bans His Worship

ALMATY, Kazakhstan—On May 2, 2017, a court in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, sentenced Teymur Akhmedov to a five-year prison sentence for performing his peaceful Bible education work, characterized by the court as “inciting religious discord” and “advocating [religious] superiority.” In addition to the prison term, the judge also imposed a three-year ban on Mr. Akhmedov’s participation in Bible education activities. The decision places Mr. Akhmedov, 61, husband and father of three sons, in an especially precarious situation because he requires treatment for a bleeding tumor and has been denied the medical attention that he requires. Mr. Akhmedov will appeal the court’s decision. The appeal is likely to be heard later in May or early June.

The decision is the latest disturbing development in a legal drama that began January 18, 2017, when Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee arrested and charged Mr. Akhmedov under the controversial Article 174(2) of the Criminal Code of Kazakhstan. Mr. Akhmedov was then held in detention for months and denied medical treatment. David A. Semonian, a spokesman at the Witnesses’ world headquarters, states: “Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world are deeply concerned over Teymur’s welfare. We hope that the authorities will dismiss these unwarranted charges and finally allow this loyal, law-abiding Christian to be reunited with his family and receive the medical care he urgently requires.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses view the actions of the Astana court as evidence that Kazakhstan is following the pattern of religious persecution set by Russia, particularly the recent decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation to liquidate the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. Mr. Semonian explains: “As was the case with our worship in Russia, Teymur Akhmedov is a victim of a law ostensibly designed to guard against terrorism that is being misapplied to our worship. International bodies, including the United Nations Human Rights Committee and the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, have called on Kazakhstan to stop misusing such laws to persecute peaceful worship.” He concludes: “Our concern extends to all of our fellow worshippers in Kazakhstan, whom we hope will no longer be harassed for carrying out their Bible education work, which is known to help communities around the world. We will all be following this case closely.”

Media Contacts:

International: David A. Semonian, Office of Public Information, +1-845-524-3000

Kazakhstan: Bekzat Smagulov, +7-747-671-45-01