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21 September 2016

TURKMENISTAN: Search, arrest, torture, escape, arrest, prison

Police raided Jehovah's Witness Mansur Masharipov's home in Dashoguz in July 2014, seized religious literature (subsequently destroyed), severely beat him, injected him in a Drug Rehabilitation Centre (from which he escaped) with unknown drugs. He was jailed after June 2016 arrest for one year.

5 July 2016

TURKMENISTAN: Conscientious objectors face corrective labour sentences

Six conscientious objectors to compulsory military service sentenced to corrective labour since October 2014, including Dayanch Jumayev in February. They live at home under restrictions, the state seizing a fifth of their wages. Appeals from 11 conscientious objectors are with UN Human Rights Committee.

18 April 2016

TURKMENISTAN: Children's summer camp warning, fines, new Religion Law, "no religion" in army

Secret police officers warned the pastor of the Baptist Church in Mary not to hold a children's summer camp in 2016 otherwise "it would be a different conversation", Protestants told Forum 18 News Service. One of the officers had led the raid on the same church's children's camp in 2013. Also in February, members of Greater Grace Protestant Church were fined for visiting the town of Tejen to talk to others of their faith. On 12 April, Turkmenistan's new Religion Law came into force. Among other restrictions it continues the existing ban on exercising freedom of religion and belief with others without state permission and increases the number of founders who can apply for legal status for a religious community from five to 50. The new government Commission that controls religion needs to approve all religious literature and any new places of worship. The Religion Law also repeats the existing ban on conscientious objection to military service. Two senior members of parliament refused to discuss the new Law with Forum 18. Members of several religious communities complained that "no religion" is allowed during military service. "You can't have a Koran, Bible or other religious literature and you can't conduct prayers visibly," one told Forum 18.

14 April 2016

TURKMENISTAN: More than half Ashgabad's mosques now destroyed

In early April, Aksa Mosque in Turkmenistan's capital Ashgabad became the eighth of the city's mosques to have been summarily destroyed in the city in recent years. The Mosque – built in the early 1990s with donations from local Muslims – could accommodate 100 worshippers. Demolition workers from the Hyakimlik (administration) justified the demolition by telling local people that "this mosque has been built without any kind of permission", Radio Free Europe's Turkmen Service noted. No one over 23 years had mentioned any illegality in the construction, insisted a 70-year-old local resident who had been involved in the Mosque's original construction. "But now, under a pretext, they are destroying the building considered to be God's house," Iolaman-aga told Radio Free Europe. An official of the Architecture Department of Ashgabad's Kopetdag District Hyakimlik put the phone down before Forum 18 News Service could ask about the destroyed Aksa Mosque. The demolition was completed as Turkmenistan's new Religion Law entered into force on 12 April.

5 April 2016

TURKMENISTAN: No amnesty for prisoner of conscience, no reparations despite UN instruction

Jehovah's Witness prisoner of conscience Bahram Hemdemov was not freed in the February amnesty and an appeal on his behalf is now being prepared to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18 News Service. Despite rulings from the UN Committee in 2015 that the rights of four imprisoned Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors had been violated (both by their imprisonment and torture during their imprisonment), the Turkmenistan government has failed to expunge their criminal records, offered recompense or taken measures to prevent similar violations in future. No alternative to compulsory military service has been introduced. Pirnazar Hudainazarov, Chair of Parliament's Legislative Committee, refused absolutely to discuss this with Forum 18. At the labour camp at Seydi where Hemdemov is being held, Muslim prisoners are too afraid to attend the prison mosque for fear of being branded "Wahhabis" and sent for harsher punishment, a former prisoner told Forum 18.

21 May 2015

TURKMENISTAN: Torture and jail for one 4 year and 14 short-term prisoners of conscience

Jehovah's Witness Bahram Hemdemov has been tortured and given a four-year prison term on 19 May in Turkmenistan's eastern city of Turkmenabad, Forum 18 News Service has been told. Prisoner of conscience Hemdemov was accused of allegedly inciting religious hatred, which his fellow Jehovah's Witnesses deny. His real "crime" seems to have been hosting a meeting for worship. Along with Hemdemov and many of the latest 2015 short-term prisoners of conscience, Hemdemov's son Serdar was jailed for 15 days as a prisoner of conscience and tortured. A total of 14 Jehovah's Witnesses have since February been short-term prisoners of conscience, with one of these still today (21 May) being detained. About 30 others have been fined. Tortures used include beatings with bottles of water and electrocution threats. The children of Protestants and their parents have been subjected to public bullying in schools and pressure to sign statements renouncing their faith. Protestant teachers have been fired from their jobs and summer camps for children cancelled.

12 March 2015

TURKMENISTAN: "Who can forbid us from praying?" Yet raids, fines continue

Narmurad Mominov, a Protestant leader from Galkynysh in Lebap Region of eastern Turkmenistan, was fined two weeks' average local wages in late February after police raided a private home, local Protestants told Forum 18 News Service. Many of those present were held until the early hours of the morning, while some were pressured to renounce or change their faith. One who did so was told to "repent" publicly in the mosque. During a search, police had found a copy of the New Testament and blamed Mominov for giving it to the home owner. Local Protestants had feared that he could have been given as much as a 15-day jail term. In March 2014, a court in the same Region handed down 15-day prison terms to ten Jehovah's Witnesses to punish them for exercising their right to freedom of religion. One Baptist home owner in Mary told police intruders who seized four hymnbooks from her guests: "Who can forbid us from praying? Who can forbid us from inviting others as guests?"

18 February 2015

TURKMENISTAN: Two amnestied prisoners, conscientious objector in hospital, beaten "Wahhabis"

Umid Gojayev, imprisoned on charges of hooliganism which local Protestants insist were brought disproportionately because of his religious beliefs, and Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector Ruslan Narkuliyev were freed yesterday (17 February), Forum 18 News Service has learnt. Both were released under amnesty from the same labour camp in Seydi in eastern Turkmenistan. "Narkuliyev's release means that there are no longer any Jehovah's Witnesses convicted and imprisoned in Turkmenistan as conscientious objectors," one Jehovah's Witness told Forum 18. However, Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector Soyunmurat Korov is being held "against his will" in military hospital in Ashgabad. Meanwhile, five Muslim men imprisoned on charges of religious extremism, were severely beaten on arrival in Seydi strict regime labour camp in early February. One suffered a broken hand, another a broken rib and damage to his lung. Forum 18 has been unable to establish if they were imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of religion or for committing crimes.

28 October 2014

TURKMENISTAN: Eight prisoners of conscience amnestied

On 22 October eight of Turkmenistan's nine known imprisoned prisoners of conscience jailed for exercising freedom of religion or belief were released under presidential amnesty, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. All were being held in a harsh labour camp in eastern Turkmenistan. Six were conscientious objectors to military service and two had been imprisoned on fabricated charges to punish them for exercising their freedom of religion or belief. One newly-sentenced conscientious objector, Ruslan Narkuliyev, was not released (possibly as his name was left off a list), and nor was a Protestant, Umid Gojayev, imprisoned on what his friends say were disproportionate charges brought because of his beliefs. Two Jehovah's Witnesses serving suspended sentences also appear not to have been amnestied. There are also an unknown number of Muslim prisoners of conscience jailed for exercising their freedom of religion or belief, as well as prisoners of conscience jailed for other reasons. Jehovah's Witnesses hope the prisoner releases may lead to recognition of the right to conscientious objection to military service.

29 September 2014

TURKMENISTAN: Freed after four weeks, but court "failed to correct an injustice"

After nearly four weeks' imprisonment, during which Bibi Rahmanova suffered "severe physical abuse", she was released from prison in Dashoguz in northern Turkmenistan on 2 September. But her conviction on charges she strongly denies of assaulting a police officer still stands, and she can within the next four years only leave her home city with state permission, according to the decision seen by Forum 18 News Service. No action has been taken against officials who assaulted her and her husband and detained her four-year old child. Rahmanova's release from prison leaves nine other individuals known to be in prison because of their faith. Six are conscientious objectors to compulsory military service (all Jehovah's Witnesses). Two other Jehovah's Witnesses are imprisoned on charges their fellow Jehovah's Witnesses insist were fabricated. One Protestant is in prison on charges his fellow Protestants say should not have led to imprisonment. Murad Atabaev of Parliament's Committee on the Protection of Human Rights claimed that a proposed Alternative Service Law had been drafted in 2013 but that he had not seen the text. "When it will be adopted – I don't know," he told Forum 18.

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