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International Pressure and Justice in Tajikistan: Supreme Court Dismisses Usmonov’s Appeal

It appears that justice in Tajikistan is increasingly reserved for those with strong international pressure behind them. On November 30, Tajikistan’s Supreme Court dismissed the appeal filed against the conviction of Urunboy Usmonov by the Sughd provincial court in Khujand in October. Usmonov, a reporter for the BBC’s Uzbek Service in Tajikistan, was arrested in June on charges of membership in a banned Islamist group, Hizb ut-Tahrir (HuT). Strong international pressure, including from the European Union and the United States, prompted the authorities to drop the original charges. Moreover, the journalist was released from pre-trial detention after what was announced as a personal intervention of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon.

Usmonov was apparently not so important for Tajik authorities that they would imprison him even at risk of ruining their relations with Western powers. On October 14, Usmonov was freed under a nationwide amnesty despite the court finding him guilty and sentencing to three years in jail for not informing the authorities of his meetings with HuT activists. International pressure was central to the authorities’ decision not to put Usmonov in jail.
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Filed under Authoritarianism, Foreign affairs, Justice, Media, Tajikistan

Tajik Authorities Release Jailed BBC Reporter

On July 14, Tajik authorities released Urunboy Usmonov, a local correspondent for the BBC’s Uzbek service, who spent one month in pre-trial detention on suspicion of belonging to a banned Islamic group. It appears that the unusual publicity and widespread international criticism generated by Usmonov’s case were major factors behind the government’s decision to free him.
Usmonov, 59, was detained in the northern city of Khujand on June 13, shortly after Tajik police arrested two alleged leaders of Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HuT) cells in the country. HuT is an Islamic movement that has been banned in Tajikistan since 2001, mainly because its members are openly critical of the government and call for the replacement of secular states in Central Asia with an Islamic caliphate, albeit through non-violent means (EDM, July 12).

As the journalist was taken into custody, Tajik security agencies said he was suspected of HuT membership. A media statement by the State Committee for National Security (GKNB) announced that the “initial investigation, based on witness testimony and evidence, confirms Usmonov’s membership in Hizb-ut-Tahrir.” The GKNB alleged that Usmonov was in contact with HuT leaders both in the country and abroad, and supported the production and distribution of “printed material, calling for the violent seizure of power and change in the constitutional design of Tajikistan” (www.khovar.tj, June 18).
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Filed under Authoritarianism, Media, Tajikistan