Prosecutor Seeks Lengthy Prison Term For Tajik Journalist Charged With Extremism

DUSHANBE -- A prosecutor has asked a court in Dushanbe to convict and sentence noted Tajik journalist Zavqibek Saidamini to a lengthy prison term for allegedly cooperating with two banned opposition groups.

A source close to the probe against Saidamini told RFE/RL that the prosecutor made a request on November 3 for the journalist to be sentenced to 7 1/2 years. According to the source, the defendant reiterated his innocence during the trial.

Saidamini was arrested in July and charged with having links with the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) and the opposition Group 24 movement. He has rejected the allegations, saying he has nothing to do with the two groups.

The IRPT, long an influential party with representatives in government and parliament, was labeled a terrorist group and banned in Tajikistan in 2015.

Dozens of IRPT officials and supporters have been prosecuted and many of them imprisoned, drawing criticism from human rights groups.

Group 24 was founded by well-known businessman and opposition politician Umarali Quvatov in 2012.

In 2014, Tajikistan's Supreme Court found the group extremist and banned it from the country. Dozens of the group's members and supporters have been arrested and many of them sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

In March 2015, Quvatov was assassinated in Istanbul.

Currently, Tajik journalists and bloggers Ulfatkhonim Mamadshoeva, Abdusattor Pirmuhammadzoda, and Hushom Gulyuam are in custody waiting for their trials on extremism charges that human rights groups call politically motivated.

Earlier this year, journalists Abdullo Ghurbati, Mamadsulton Mavlonazarov, and Daleri Imomali were sentenced to prison terms of between seven and 10 years on extremism charges.

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, who has run the country for almost 30 years, has been criticized by international human rights groups over his administration's alleged disregard for independent media, religious freedoms, civil society, and political pluralism in the tightly controlled former Soviet republic.