A district court in Kyrgyzstan’s southern Batken Province seems to have had a hard time distinguishing Islam from Christianity. The court recently sentenced two Jehovah’s Witnesses to seven-year prison terms for the possession of banned radical Islamic media materials.
Iskandar Kambarov, 18, and Jonibek Nosirov, 22, were convicted of possessing DVDs associated with Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an underground radical Islamic group that advocates the non-violent overthrow of Central Asian governments. Sentenced on May 18, the pair insists security officials planted the DVDs during two unannounced visits to their house on January 25. Subsequently, on January 29, four officials from the State Security Committee (GKNB) raided the property without a warrant, according to a defense lawyer. The State Committee for Religious Affairs subsequently certified the discs as extremist, and, therefore, illegal to possess and/or distribute.
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Chris Rickleton is a Bishkek-based journalist.