In early 2012, 29-year-old Umid Gojayev of Turkmenistan had an argument with four neighbors over access to a well where they live in Dashoguz. In the scuffle, Umid defended himself and hit one of the men on the head with a brick, causing injury. The man filed a complaint against Umid with local police.
Several days later, he and his family reconciled with the man he injured and paid for his hospital expenses. They agreed to withdraw their complaint. However, when police learned that Umid was a Christian, they insisted on bringing the case to court, though the victim refused to press charges.
Umid was sentenced to four years in prison on charges of hooliganism. None of the other men involved in the melee were prosecuted. According to Forum 18, one of the investigators told Umid’s relative that because he is a believer, the court will not forgive him.
After nearly two years in prison, there have been four general amnesties in which prisoners charged under the same law as Umid have been released, but Umid remains in prison. According to Forum 18, “Umid was told in the labor camp he is not being included in the amnesties because he reads the Bible.”
As a result of his imprisonment, Umid’s wife, Malahat, was forced to leave her job and care for their three young children. They are struggling to make ends meet without their primary breadwinner.
Umid Gojayev Released - Feb. 2015
A prisoner who was charged disproportionately in Turkmenistan because of his Christian faith has been released from prison after nearly three years behind bars. Umid Gojayev, 32, was freed through prisoner amnesty on Feb. 17, 2015, but he is now required to report to local police on a weekly basis. He was charged with hooliganism in April 2012 and sentenced to four years in a labor camp. After his release, Umid boarded a train for a two-day journey from Ashgabad to return to his wife and three young children in the northern city of Dashoguz.