For Immediate Release
September 16, 2011
Disabled man arrested, beaten, and deported for reading Bible
DUSHANBE, Tajikistan—Representatives of the State Committee on National Security (SCNS) and the Dushanbe Police Department raided a peaceful religious meeting of Jehovah’s Witnesses held in a private apartment on July 22, 2011. The officials conducted searches of the Witnesses’ personal belongings, seized all of their religious literature and screamed at the group, alleging that it was illegal for Jehovah’s Witnesses to meet together.
The owner of the apartment along with the mother and her four daughters (ages 2 to 13) were taken to the police station where they were interrogated for nearly seven hours. Following their release, the four young girls required medical care to cope with the resulting trauma.
The other two adults in the group were detained and interrogated by police and the SCNS representatives for more than 20 hours. One of the detained adults was Sherzod Rahimov, a 24-year-old Jehovah’s Witness who suffers from a permanent disability and can walk only with the aid of crutches. He was interrogated by 15 police officers who demanded that he renounce his faith, and beaten repeatedly. Rahimov suffered from severe dizziness, headaches and nausea for days following the beatings. When the police learned that Rahimov was a citizen of Uzbekistan, they insisted that they would falsely accuse him of criminal acts and threatened to torture Rahimov by putting him in an electric chair.
Rahimov had legally lived in Tajikistan with his mother and siblings since 2009. Prior to his arrest, he had applied to renew his visa. However, the SCNS seized his passport and did not return it to him until after it had expired. Rahimov was then charged with the contrived violation that he had failed to renew his visa and for “illegal” religious activity. For this, Rahimov was deported to Uzbekistan on August 17, 2011.
Such acts of religious intolerance by local officials are contrary to the guarantee of freedom of religion and association enshrined in Tajikistan’s Constitution and international treaties ratified by Tajikistan.
J.R. Brown, tel. +1 718 560 5600
Russia: Toporov Yuriy, tel. +7 727 232 3662
Belgium: European Association of Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses, tel. +32 2 782 0015
Britain: European Association of Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses, tel. +44 208 906 2211