Jehovah's Witnesses followers detained in Tajikistan
Police in Khujand, northern Tajikistan, detained 17 followers of the Jehovah's Witnesses, who are banned in this country, a source at the country's Interior Ministry told Interfax on Friday.
"They were using the houses as a place of worship, which is banned by law," he said.
Police also found in the house the organization's literature, which the Interior Ministry believes contained "animosity towards other religious confessions," he said.
"All the detained persons could face charges under Article 189 of the Tajikistan Penal Code," the source said.
Article 189, "Inciting ethnic, racial, local or religious hatred," provides for a punishment for a period between five to 12 years of imprisonment. Normally, this article is applied in Tajikistan against the followers of the Hizb ut-Tahrir religious party, which calls for the overthrow of all current governments in the Central Asian republics and the formation of Islamic Halifat.
This is the first such detention of Jehovah's Witnesses since October 2007, when the country banned this organization which in certain countries is classified as a sect. The main reason for this ban was the Witnesses' broad missionary activity, the authorities said.