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Tajik Security Agencies Face Allegations of Detainee Abuse and Extrajudicial Killings

A number of events in 2011 reinforce allegations of systemic abuse and torture and even the occurrence of possible extrajudicial killings in detention by law enforcement agencies in Tajikistan. On October 20, police in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, took a badly injured Bahromiddin Shodiyev, 28, to a local hospital. Shodiyev, who had been arrested on the previous day in connection with a theft investigation, died ten days later of head wounds. The police attributed Shodiyev’s injuries while in custody to an attempted escape or suicide, claiming that he jumped from a first-floor window, but also alleged that he died not necessarily as a result of his injuries, but due to “multiple diseases of internal organs” (www.news.tj, November 1).

Shodiyev’s relatives insist on a different explanation of his death. According to his mother, he told her in the hospital that he was beaten and given electric shocks at the hands of the police, until he confessed to a crime he had not committed. Following the incident, the Tajik human rights ombudsman and an anti-torture group called on the authorities to investigate Shodiyev’s death. The growing publicity about the case led the authorities to launch an investigation as a result of which several police officers were dismissed; one facing criminal charges (www.news.tj, November 9, 15).

Analysts and human rights groups claim that what happened to Shodiyev is not an isolated incident, but part of a larger pattern of abuse in detention by police and security forces. In March, another detainee, Safarali Sangov, died in a Dushanbe hospital in almost identical circumstances. He was hospitalized several hours after being detained on drug-related charges. While police claimed that Sangov tried to commit suicide by hitting his head against a wall and jumping from a police station window, his relatives insisted that he died of police brutality (Asia-Plus, March 7). Also, in June, Ismoil Bachajonov, who was accused of drug smuggling, died in mysterious circumstances in a pre-trial facility in Dushanbe (Asia-Plus, June 9), while two minors were allegedly heavily beaten by police in the southern town of Kulob. In addition, a BBC reporter, Urunboi Usmonov, held for a month by the police in Khujand, was allegedly tortured to extract a confession (www.rsf.org, August 13).
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Filed under Crime, Detainee abuse, Human Rights, Police corruption, Tajikistan

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

Hizb-ut-Tahrir Leaders, BBC Journalist Arrested in Tajikistan

In June, two alleged leaders of Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HuT) were arrested in Tajikistan. On June 8, police detained a 46 year-old resident of Bobojon Ghafurov district in Tajikistan’s northern Sughd province. The detainee, whose name has not been disclosed, purportedly served as head of the banned group’s cell in the province and was in charge of disseminating HuT literature and recruiting new members in the region (www.news.tj, June 9).

On June 14, police announced that they detained Sharifjon Yoqubov (43) in the previous week in Dushanbe. According to Tajik interior ministry press service, Yoqubov has been among key HuT leaders in the country. His arrest reportedly became possible after his email correspondence with HuT’s London-based leadership and the movement’s cell in Russia was monitored by investigators. According to media reports, Yoqubov already spent 10 years in jail for membership of the forbidden group (www.news.tj, http://www.ozodi.org, June 14).

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Filed under Authoritarianism, Islam, Media, Radicalism, Tajikistan