TURKMENISTAN: Jehovah's Witness serving Eight-Year Sentence for his Faith

byFelix Corley, Keston News Service, 20 February 2001

In what is the longest sentence imposed on any religious prisoner in Turkmenistan since independence in 1991 and the longest sentence imposed on a Jehovah's Witness in any of the former Soviet republics where Jehovah's Witnesses are still subject to imprisonment for practising their faith, Kurban Zakirov is now serving an eight-year term of imprisonment in a labour camp tacked onto an earlier one-year sentence that he had just completed. Keston News Service has learnt that 21-year-old Zakirov, who is from the town of Turkmenabad (formerly Chardjou) in eastern Turkmenistan, was sentenced on what fellow Jehovah's Witnesses believe are trumped-up charges of attacking an officer.

Zakirov, who joined the Jehovah's Witnesses in June 1997, was first arrested on 23 April 1999 and sentenced on 25 May 1999 to one year's imprisonment for refusing compulsory military service (see KNS 6 March 2000). `In spring 2000, when the term expired, he was not released but transferred to another unit since all those whose term expires must place their hand on the Koran and swear an oath of loyalty to the president and state,' Jehovah's Witness sources told Keston on 18 February.

`Kurban refused to do this and when he should have been released one officer, in the presence of others, ripped off his shoulder strap and claimed Kurban attacked him. Immediately a protocol was drawn up on him and he was sentenced again for attacking the security service. The court determined the term of punishment of eight years in a high-security corrective labour colony in the city of Chardjou.' It is not yet known when his trial took place. (END)