Tajik Opposition Politician Sentenced To 14 Years In Prison

By RFE/RL's Tajik Service

DUSHANBE -- Tajik opposition politician Mahmurod Odinaev has been sentenced to 14 years in prison on charges of hooliganism and "calling for extremism."

The Rudaki district court in Dushanbe convicted and sentenced Odinaev, a deputy head of the Social Democratic Party, on January 28.

Odinaev's son Habibulllo Rizoev was also convicted of hooliganism and fined 58,000 somonis (more than $5,000). Both men pleaded not guilty during the trial, which started on January 25.

Mahmurod Odinaev went missing on November 20 after he asked Dushanbe Mayor Rustam Emomali in a Facebook post to allow him and supporters of the Social Democratic Party -- the only opposition party functioning in Tajikistan -- to stage a demonstration over food-price hikes.

On December 5, the Tajik Prosecutor-General's Office acknowledged that Odinaev had been arrested in Dushanbe.

According to the authorities, he allegedly conducted an act of hooliganism in late October in a military draft office where prosecutors say he confronted officials over the conscription of Rizoev.

That came after the Interior Ministry said in November that another son, Shaikhmuslihiddin Rizoev, was charged with hooliganism over his alleged involvement in a brawl.

Odinaev said that unknown attackers had severely beaten his son as part of a pressure campaign imposed on him for his political activities.

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, who has tightly ruled the former Soviet republic since 1992, has been criticized for cracking down on opposition political groups, rights defenders, and independent journalists.