Tajik Journalist Convicted In 'Absurd' Extremism Case Released From Prison

By RFE/RL's Tajik Service

DUSHANBE -- Tajik journalist Daler Sharifov, who was sentenced to one year in prison in a case media watchdogs labelled "absurd," has been released after serving his time.

Sharifov's relatives told RFE/RL that the independent journalist was released on January 29 and was currently with his family in his native city of Vahdat.

Sharifov, who writes about domestic politics and religious issues, was sentenced in April 2020.

He was arrested on January 28, 2020, on charges of inciting ethnic, racial, and religious hatred and spreading "propaganda" on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Prosecutor-General's Office said at the time that the case was based on "more than 200 articles and commentaries containing extremist content" aimed at "inciting religious intolerance" that had been published on social media between 2013 and 2019.

The charges centered on a dissertation Sharifov published in 2019 which examined Islamic theology and included quotes from Muslim Brotherhood leaders.

Similar to several authoritarian countries in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Tajikistan considers the Muslim Brotherhood an extremist organization and banned it in 2006.

Sharifov's relatives, human rights organizations, and media-freedom groups rejected the accusations against the journalist as unfounded and demanded his release.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists called the incitement charges "absurd," stressing that Sharifov's arrest was aimed at silencing a critical journalist ahead of parliamentary elections in March 2020 that were won, as expected, by President Emomali Rahmon's ruling party.

Writing for the independent news website Ozodagon from 2013 until its closure in 2019 following "years of harassment," Sharifov often commented on violations of human rights and religious freedoms, according to RSF.

Nine years ago, the journalist spent several days in the hospital after being assaulted in a still-unsolved attack.