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Prisoners of conscience still held for their faith

By Felix Corley and Mushfig Bayram
04/06/09 Uzbekistan (Forum 18 News Service) – …Amongst the other prisoners of conscience jailed for their faith is Pentecostal Pastor Dmitry Shestakov, who marks his 40th birthday on Thursday 9 April…No officials have been prepared to discuss with Forum 18 why these prisoners of conscience are being held for peacefully practising their faith.

One Pentecostal and four Jehovah’s Witness prisoners of conscience

Also still imprisoned is a Pentecostal prisoner of conscience, Pastor Dmitry Shestakov, who is due to mark his 40th birthday on Thursday 9 April. An undated appeal from his youngest daughter, Vera, who is eight years old, was recently published on the website.

“He is good, fun-loving and generous. I really miss him,” Vera wrote about her imprisoned father. “He used to take me to the park and bought me ice-cream. We all long for him to be here. Mum often cries and worries about him. When I wake up each morning I really want to see Dad. I ask God to bring Dad back to us. So that everything will be as it was before. Help us to get my Dad back!”

Pastor Shestakov was sentenced in March 2007 to four years in an open work camp (see F18News 23 Match 2007 The sentence was subsequently harshened to imprisonment in a labour camp where Jehovah’s Witness prisoners of conscience are also held (see F18News 27 June 2007

Four Jehovah’s Witness prisoners of conscience are currently in jail for their religious activity. These are: Abdubannob Ahmedov, Sergei Ivanov, Irfon Khamidov and Olim Turaev (see F18News 29 July 2008

Jehovah’s Witnesses told Forum 18 on 6 April that Khamidov, who is serving a two-year prison sentence imposed in May 2007 for “illegal religious teaching”, is due for imminent release.

The other three still have years of imprisonment to serve. Turaev was jailed for four years in a labour camp from April 2008 for holding an unapproved religious meeting and teaching religion without state permission (see F18News 29 April 2008 Ahmedov was sentenced in July 2008 to a four year term for “illegal organisation of public associations or religious organisations”. And Sergei Ivanov was sentenced in July 2008 to three and a half years for “illegal organisation of public associations or religious organisations” (see F18News 21 August 2008

In another disturbing new development, short-term imprisonments of Protestants recently took place in March (see F18News 18 March 2009 (END)