First Prisoner Releases In Tajikistan As Mass Amnesty Takes Effect

DUSHANBE -- A first group of inmates has been released after a mass amnesty was announced last week in Tajikistan.

Some 2,000 inmates, including 165 women, some 60 teenagers under the age of 18, and individuals sentenced for "liking online extremist posts," were released over the weekend.

The bill on the mass amnesty devoted to the 25th anniversary of the Central Asian nation's constitution was adopted by lawmakers and signed into law by President Emomali Rahmon on October 25.

The amnesty is the largest in Tajikistan's history.

According to the bill, more than 3,000 convicts would be released from penitentiaries and more than 5,000 individuals whose sentences were not associated with imprisonment will be pardoned as well before December 31.

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 crimes after receiving a previous pardon, inmates who committed crimes while serving prison sentences, and inmates who systematically violate prison regulations will not be pardoned.

There have been 15 mass amnesties in Tajikistan since it gained its independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The amnesties have not included 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.