Shamil Khakimov

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.”

Latest Updates:

  • On 8 November 2022, Khakimov’s defense attorney filed a petition for his release to the president of Tajikistan, the General Prosecutor’s Office, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ombudsman. Two days later, the Supervisory filed an appeal of Khakimov’s conviction citing the UN Human Rights Committee’s 2022 judgement that Tajikistan’s proscription of Jehovah’s Witnesses. On the 11th of November, another appeal was filed for Khakimov’s release on account of his worsening health conditions. Khakimov suffers from chronic sciatica, an unhealed leg wound from a surgery in 2019, left ventricular hypertrophy (heart disease), and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease primarily affecting the legs; Khakimov additionally is at a high risk of developing hypertension (abnormally high blood pressure) and has been operated on twice to treat blood clots in his left leg resulting from his atherosclerosis. These two surgeries have caused Khakimov to additionally develop post-thrombotic syndrome in both of his legs as well as a pressure ulcer and early gangrene on his left foot. Furthermore, Khakimov has lost all vision in his right eye and is likely to soon lose vision in his left eye as well due to worsening complications with glaucoma. In light of his multitude of aggravated health conditions, Khakimov has received medical documentation identifying him as a priority group two disabled individual. Jarrod Lopes, the spokesperson of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, stated of Khakimov’s case the following:

    “If Shamil isn’t released soon and given specialized medical treatment, there is a very real danger that his imprisonment might become, effectively, a death sentence. We hope the Tajik authorities take immediate action to have Shamil released before it’s too late. There is no legal reason, according to Tajik and international law, for a peaceful elderly man like him to be in prison. He should have never been imprisoned. Additionally, in December 2020, over a year after his conviction, Tajikistan decriminalized Shamil’s so-called offense. The authorities should have immediately released him then. Instead, prison authorities continue to pressure him to ‘repent’ and renounce his beliefs. Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world hope that the Tajik authorities will soon comply with the UN Human Rights Committee’s recent judgement, by lifting the unlawful ban and releasing Shamil from prison.”
  • After Khakimov was prohibited from attending his only son’s funeral in September 2021 and has since been in “severe emotional distress”.
  • 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