05/18/2012, 00.00
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Ashgabat: second Jehovah's Witness sentenced to forced labour in 2012

Aibek Salayev, 33, was accused of "distributing pornography". Supreme Court upholds his conviction, which goes into effect immediately. He will go to the Karabogaz camp on the Caspian Sea. Another Jehovah's Witness was sentenced to two years of hard labour for conscientious objection.

Ashgabat (AsiaNews/Agencies) - For the second time in 2012, a Jehovah's Witness has been sentenced to four years in a labour camp for "distributing pornography". However, fellow believers told Forum 18 said that the charges against Aibek Salayev, 33, were fabricated to punish him for his faith. He was sentenced by Akmurad Akmuradov, the same Judge in the Dashoguz City Court who sentenced Jehovah's Witness Navruz Nasyrlaev to the maximum two years in a labour camp for being a conscientious objector.

Local sources said that members of the security forces and police beat Aibek Salayev during his arrest and the following days "in the stomach, kidneys and head. As a result his face swelled up and he could not eat".

Aibek Salayev's fate is similar to that of Vladimir Nuryllaev, 39, who was sentenced in January to four years in prison for "distributing pornography" after a "secret trial" held in the capital without the presence of family or friends.

Salayev was convicted on 12 April. His appeal was rejected on 1 May. Turkmenistan's Supreme Court in the capital Ashgabat upheld the conviction a few days later. Now he will purge his four-year sentence of forced labour in Karabogaz, Balkan, on the Caspian Sea.

The same judge who sentenced Salayev, Akmuradov of Dashoguz City Court, also sentenced Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector Navruz Nasyrlaev on 1 May.

Nasyrlaev was given a two-year strict regime labour camp sentence under Article 219, Part 1, of the Criminal Code., which punishes anyone who refuses to serve in the armed forces in peacetime with a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment. It is believed the strict-regime sentence was imposed rather than a general-regime sentence because he has been previously convicted on the same charge.

Even though Turkmen authorities deny that anyone is punished on religious or political grounds, Turkmenistan continues to imprison Jehovah's Witnesses for conscientious objection.

A United Nations committee also noted that the Central Asian nation does not legally recognise certain religions-it has also expressed concern that it has banned religious worship in private homes.

Ninety per cent of the population of Turkmenistan is Muslim, mostly Sunni. There are some Shia communities. Once numerous, Christians are about 9 per cent, mostly Orthodox.

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