Name: Shamil Khakimov
Country/Area of Origin: Tajikistan
Background: Shamil Khakimov is a Jehovah’s Witness
Reason for Arrest:
In February 2019, then 68-year-old Shamil Khakimov was arrested in Khukad, Tajikistan, due to his identity as a Jehovah’s Witness and in response to his work peacefully evangelizing and sharing his beliefs. Khakimov was accused of “inciting religious hatred” and authorities claimed that his various religious literature include “features of extremist activity.”
Prior to his arbitrary arrest, Khakimov was recovering from a recent major leg surgery and suffered from high blood pressure; concerns for his health were heightened by the fact that Tajikistan prisons are infamous for being inhumane. During his detention, Khakimov has reported being prohibited from reading his Bible.
Khakimov was charged in September 2019 under Criminal Code Article 189 for allegedly “inciting religious hatred”, however, in response to such an accusation, Khakimov assured that “Yes I am a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses and no one will convince me otherwise. I love all people. I had no enmity for any nation or religion. I have no intention to renounce my beliefs. I am guilty of nothing.”
Khakimov’s sentence is 7 and a half years in prison, and his expected date of release is in August 2026, at which point he would be 75 years old. Moreover, his sentence also includes a prohibition of engaging in religious activity for up to three years after his release in prison. Such a three-year period would end in August 2029, at which point Khakimov would be 78 years old.
Forum 18 has taken up major reporting on Khakimov’s case:
“The Court promised to provide Khakimov’s lawyer a copy of the written verdict on 13 September. Khakimov is expected to appeal and will have ten days to do so from when he gets the written verdict, Jehovah’s Witnesses told Forum 18.”
“Forum 18 was unable to reach the Judge, Nargis Nabizoda, to find out why Khakimov was jailed when no evidence was produced that he had harmed anyone. It was also unable to ask him why the trial was held in Investigation Prison, to which his son and his friends were not allowed access despite promises.”
- In March 2021, it was reported that Khakimov is not receiving medical treatment for his leg “which smells like rotten meat”, nor for his COVID-19 symptoms. The United Nations Human Rights Committee and Committee against Torture have both called on Tajikistan to implement the Mandela Rules [Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners] which requires prisoners’ medical necessities to be taken into consideration by doctors. In response, the prison governor informed Forum 18 that “I do not know what the Mandela Rules are”; the Supreme Court in Tajikistan made similar remarks.
- On 24 February 2021, USCIRF Commissioner Nury Turkel announced his adoption of Shamil Khakimov via USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project, and released the following remarks:
- “The Tajikistani government is treating Shamil Khakimov in an appalling way. Since 2019, this ailing, elderly man has been languishing in a decrepit and overcrowded prison on a bogus seven-and-a-half year prison sentence. This term could very well represent a death sentence for a man wrongly imprisoned for peacefully practicing his religious beliefs as a Jehovah’s Witness. Tajikistani authorities are essentially destroying this man’s life because of his faith. Such atrocious violations cannot be tolerated if Tajikistan has any interest in improving its record on religious freedom.” – USCIRF Commissioner Nury Turkel