Accused of allegedly inciting religious enmity, a 68-year-old Jehovah's Witness Shamil Hakimov has got a lengthy jail term.
The Khujand city sentenced Shamil Hakimov to 7 ½ years in prison on September 10. Hakimov will serve his jail term in a high-security penal colony. He is also barred from engaging in any activities in religious institutions during three years after release. .
The court's ruling was nearly identical to the prosecution's earlier demand for a nine-year prison term.
Recall, the criminal trial of Shamil Hakimov, who faced charges of allegedly “inciting religious hatred”, began on August 5, but the case was postponed to provide the defendant with an interpreter into Russian. The trial resumed on August 20.
According to the investigation, Shamil Hakimov lived in Dushanbe until 2016 and then moved to the northern city of Buston (formerly Chkalovsk) allegedly for propagation of ideas of Jehovah's Witnesses organization, which is banned in Tajikistan.
Forum 18 says prosecutors claimed materials confiscated from Shamil Hakimov and others contained “features of extremist activity.” The investigation reportedly revealed a 2016 state “expert analysis” by three imams claiming the distribution of a Tajik Bible translation causes “confrontation.” Authorities think he leads Khujand's Jehovah's Witness community.
The analysis – conducted by three local imams – was carried out at the request of the State Committee for National Security (SCNS).
The imams and the Department for Religious Affairs concluded: “The book does not correspond to our society of Hanafi Muslims, its propaganda and distribution among the Muslim people does not meet the goals of our society, and its distribution among Hanafi Muslims causes confrontation and schism, and leads to misunderstandings.”
Hakimov, a retired widower, is in poor health, Jehovah's Witnesses noted. He underwent major leg surgery not long before his arrest and suffers from high blood pressure. Despite this, he has been held in pre-trial detention for more than five months, since his arrest on February 26.
Hakimov is being prosecuted for books, other literature, photos, videos, audios, computer files and mobile phone data seized from him and other community members. The Prosecutor's Office claims these materials contain “features of extremist activity.” Hakimov denies any wrongdoing.
The Tajik authorities banned Jehovah's Witnesses throughout the country in October 2007. The banning order stated: “The religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses carried out its activity in violation of Republic of Tajikistan legislation by distributing in public places and at the homes of citizens, i.e. among members and followers of other religions, propagandistic books on their religion, which has become a cause of discontent on the part of the people.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses were banned in Tajikistan for allegedly causing “discontent” and for conscientious objection to military service.