Tajik President Signs Bill On Mass Amnesty To Release Thousands

DUSHANBE -- Tajik President Emomali Rahmon has signed into law a bill enacting a mass amnesty affecting some 20,000 people, including individuals sentenced for "liking online extremist posts."

Rahmon signed the bill just hours after lawmakers approved it on October 25.

The bill was proposed by Rahmon on October 16 to mark the 25th anniversary of the Central Asian nation's constitution.

The lawmakers said at the session that some 500 inmates sentenced for "liking" posts declared by the authorities to be extremist will be among those released under the amnesty.

The bill now has to be approved by parliament's upper chamber and signed by the president to come into force, which is expected by November 6 -- Constitution Day.

According to the bill, more than 3,000 convicts will be released from penitentiaries and more than 5,000 individuals whose sentences were not associated with imprisonment will be pardoned as well.

Probes against more than 2,000 suspects will be stopped, while the prison terms of almost 10,000 inmates will be shortened.

Women convicted of serious crimes and who have served more than 12 years in prison, the majority of male inmates older than 70, and all foreign nationals will be released from prisons as well, the bill says.

Individuals sentenced to life in prison, those who committed a crime after receiving a previous pardon, inmates who committed crimes while serving prison sentences, and inmates who systematically violate prison order regulations will not be pardoned.

There have been 15 mass amnesties in Tajikistan since it gained independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The amnesties have not affected individuals convicted on politically motivated charges.

Rights groups say Rahmon, who has ruled Tajikistan since 1992, has used the security forces, judicial system, and other levers of power to sideline opponents and suppress dissent.

The last mass amnesty was announced in August 2016 ahead of the 25th anniversary of Tajikistan's independence.

Tajikistan marks Constitution Day on November 6.