KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 20.00, 20 February 2001

I. TURKMENISTAN: JEHOVAH'S WITNESS SERVING EIGHT-YEAR
SENTENCE. In what is the longest sentence imposed on any religious
prisoner in Turkmenistan since independence in 1991, 21-year-old Kurban
Zakirov is serving an eight-year term of imprisonment in a labour camp. He
had just completed a one-year sentence for refusing compulsory military
service and was due to be released when he allegedly attacked a prison
officer, a charge fellow Jehovah�s Witnesses believe is trumped up.

II. TURKMENISTAN: SEVEN JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES LANGUISH IN
LABOUR CAMPS. Most Jehovah's Witnesses imprisoned in Turkmenistan
are serving sentences for refusing military service on grounds of conscience
but three are serving sentences on other charges which local believers say
are trumped up. In a disturbing echo of Soviet-era practice, two of these
three were given new sentences that arose from their alleged behaviour as
they completed earlier sentences. The Jehovah's Witnesses � like all non-
Muslim and non-Russian Orthodox faiths - are denied registration in
Turkmenistan and are subject to fines, beatings, deportation and detention.

I. TURKMENISTAN: JEHOVAH'S WITNESS SERVING EIGHT-YEAR
SENTENCE

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

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)


II. TURKMENISTAN: SEVEN JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES LANGUISH IN
LABOUR CAMPS

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

Most Jehovah's Witnesses imprisoned in Turkmenistan are serving sentences
for refusing military service on grounds of conscience but three, including
Kurban Zakirov (see separate KNS article), are serving sentences on other
charges which local believers say are trumped up. In a disturbing echo of
Soviet-era practice, two of these three were given new sentences that arose
from their alleged behaviour as they completed earlier sentences. The
Jehovah's Witnesses � like all non-Muslim and non-Russian Orthodox faiths
- are denied registration in Turkmenistan and are subject to fines, beatings,
deportation and detention.

Those reported by Jehovah's Witness sources to be currently imprisoned in
addition to Zakirov are:

Igor Nazarov, a 23-year-old from Ashgabad who became a Jehovah's
Witness in November 1995. Arrested on 21 February 2000, he was
sentenced to two years' imprisonment on 14 March 2000 for refusing
military service. This is his second sentence on the same charges (he
received a two-year sentence on 8 June 1996). He is currently being held in
the labour camp in Seydy in north eastern Turkmenistan.

Aleksandr Zuyev, a 20-year-old who became a Jehovah's Witness in August
1998. Arrested on 25 May 2000, he was sentenced to 18 months'
imprisonment in June 2000 for refusing military service, his first such
sentence. He is currently being held in the labour camp in Seydy.

Nikolai Shelekhov, a 19-year-old who became a Jehovah's Witness in
August 1998. He was sentenced to one year's imprisonment by the first court
level on 21 August 2000, a sentence approved by an appeal court on 10
October 2000 for refusing military service, his first such sentence. He is
currently being held in the labour camp in Seydy.

Yuri Yeremeyev, an 18-year-old who became a Jehovah's Witness in 1997.
Arrested on 8 December 2000, he was sentenced on 19 January of this year
to 18 months' imprisonment for refusing military service. His whereabouts
are unknown.

Akhmet Muratov, a 20-year-old who had expressed an interest in becoming
a Jehovah's Witness. Originally sentenced to 14 months' imprisonment for
refusing military service, when the term expired he refused to swear the oath
of loyalty to the president and state placing his hand on the Koran. He was
therefore sentenced to a further two years' imprisonment in a medium-
security labour camp. He is currently serving his sentence in a labour camp
in Turkmenbashi (formerly Krasnovodsk), a port city on the Caspian.

Yazmammed Annamammedov, who is from Serdar (formerly Gyzylarbat)
and is married with three young children. Arrested in November 1999, he
was sentenced on 13 December 1999 to four years in a minimum-security
labour camp after being found guilty of having pistol cartridges, gunpowder
and explosive material in his home. He and his wife say these items were
planted during a search by police and the prosecutor. Previously held in the
Bezmein camp that has reportedly now been closed (see KNS 5 January
2001), he has been transferred to the medium security camp in
Turkmenbashi for refusing to swear the loyalty oath to the president and
state.

It appears that two other Jehovah's Witnesses, Guvanch Ashirov, who was
serving an 18 month sentence, and Nuryagdy Gaiyrov, serving a one year
sentence, have now been freed on completing their sentences (see KNS 5
January 2001).

Three of the seven imprisoned Jehovah's Witnesses are known to be held in
the labour camp in Seydy, where Baptist prisoner Shagildy Atakov was also
held until being transferred to a prison hospital in the town of Mary in early
February (see KNS 13 February 2001). `The minimum-security camp itself
is intended for 500-800 prisoners, but there are from 1,500 up to 2,000
prisoners,' the Jehovah's Witnesses report. `During the last months prior to
annual amnesties many already slept on the floor. The diet is poor, with
much water, but no salt, meat or tea. The porridge consists of simple crushed
wheat with small stones. Clothing and other necessities are the responsibility
of each prisoner. Sometimes there is not even a mattress.' Baptist sources
report that in the wake of last December's presidential amnesty the camp
now contains only about 300 prisoners.

The Jehovah's Witnesses report that their prisoners are sent to the `most
severe places of work', currently a brick factory. `All Jehovah's Witnesses
are at present under surveillance: from 6 o'clock in the morning until 10
o'clock at night they have to report every two hours to the duty officer. This
makes a total of eight to nine check-ups per day. Jehovah's Witness prisoners
are often locked in the punishment block for refusing to swear the oath [of
loyalty to the president and state], and in general are being monitored for
minor offences that are punished by incarceration in the punishment block.'

The address of the Seydy camp, whose commander is Kh. K. Kurbanov:
Turkmenistan,
746222 Lebap vilayet,
Seydy,
uchr. LV-K/12.
(END)

Copyright (c) 2001 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.