New Linguistic Forensics Of Statement Ordered In Tajik MMA Fighter's Trial

By RFE/RL's Tajik Service

DUSHANBE -- A court in Tajikistan has ordered new linguistic forensics into a video statement by a noted mixed-martial-arts (MMA) fighter from the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region.

The court's decision was announced as the trial of Chorshanbe Chorshanbiev, who is charged with making online calls for forced change of the Central Asian country's constitutional order, resumed inside a detention center in Dushanbe on March 29.

The charge against the athlete and blogger stems from a video statement he made in the wake of violent protests in Gorno-Badakhshan's capital, Khorugh, that broke out in November 2021 after security forces fatally wounded a local man wanted on charges of kidnapping.

In his video statement, Chorshanbiev condemned the actions of security forces that led to the death of the man and called on Tajiks "and all the peoples of the country to rise against injustice, unjust deaths of innocent people."

The court decided to send Chorshanbiev's video statement for additional linguistic studies after expert Yelizaveta Koltunova of the Institute of Linguistics and Journalism in the Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod testified that Chorshanbiev's statement did not contain any "psychosocial or linguistic elements of calls for violence, including disruption of the foundations of the society and state."

The 26-year-old native of Gorno-Badakhshan, who prefers to identify himself not as a Tajik, but as a Pamiri, was arrested in late December when he arrived in Dushanbe from Russia, where he had lived for many years but been deported over a traffic violation last year.

If convicted, Chorshanbiev would face up to 15 years in prison.

The rallies in Khorugh in November lasted for several days as thousands of local residents demanded justice for the man killed by security forces.

Protests are rare in the tightly controlled state of 9.5 million, where President Emomali Rahmon has ruled for nearly three decades.

Tensions between the government and residents of the nominally autonomous Gorno-Badakhshan region have simmered ever since a five-year civil war broke out shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

A linguistically and ethnically distinct region, Gorno-Badakhshan has been home to rebels who fought government forces during the conflict.