Tajik Blogger Sentenced To 10 Years In Prison On Charges That Rights Groups Say Are Unfounded

By Mullorajab Yusufi Sarvinoz Ruhulloh

DUSHANBE -- A noted Tajik blogger Daleri Imomali, who is known for writing articles that have been critical of the government, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges human rights organizations call unfounded.

Imomali's lawyer, Sadullo Qayumzoda, told RFE/RL on October 18 that the blogger was sentenced a day earlier. The blogger's relatives said the court also ordered Imomali to pay a hefty fine.

No further details were available as the trial that started on October 7 was held behind closed doors on the premises of a detention center in Dushanbe.

On October 12, the prosecution asked the Shohmansur district court to convict Imomali on charges of illegal entrepreneurship, premeditated false denunciation, and cooperating with a terrorist group. It then called for the court to sentence him to 10 1/2 years in prison.

Imomali pleaded guilty to the illegal entrepreneurship charge but rejected the other two accusations.

Known for writing articles that have criticized the Tajik government, Imomali was detained along with a well-known journalist, Abdullo Ghurbati, on June 15.

Ghurbati was sentenced on October 4 to 7 1/2 years in prison on charges of publicly insulting an authority, a minor assault on an authority, and participating in the activities of an extremist group. Ghurbati pleaded not guilty to all three charges.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Committee to Protect Journalists have demanded that Tajik officials immediately release both men.

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon has been criticized by international human rights groups for years over his disregard for independent media, religious freedoms, civil society, and political pluralism in the tightly controlled former Soviet republic.

Last week, two other Tajik journalists, Abdusattor Pirmuhammadzoda and Zavqibek Saidamini went on two separate trials held behind closed doors on extremism and terrorism charges.