Tajik Political Activist From Restive Gorno-Badakhshan Region Goes On Trial


DUSHANBE -- Faromuz Irgashev, a Tajik political activist and former lawmaker in the volatile Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO), has gone on trial on charges rights groups call politically motivated.

Irgashev's mother, Olabegim Irgasheva, told RFE/RL that her son's trial started on October 19 in a detention center in Dushanbe and is being held behind closed doors.

The 32-year-old lawyer, who was arrested in May with several other activists in the wake of the deadly dispersal of protesters in GBAO, was charged with receiving illegal financial support from abroad, organizing an unsanctioned rally, and participating in the activities of a criminal group.

It is not known how he pleaded.

Olabegim Irgasheva said that in early August -- during her only meeting with her son since his arrest -- he asked her "not to turn to official channels to seek justice as it is useless."

"When I asked him about the charges he faces, he said he does not know anything about them," Irgasheva told RFE/RL.

Irgashev was a lawyer for the Commission 44 group, which was created in November last year in GBAO to facilitate a dialogue between regional authorities and anti-government protesters. The group's efforts led to the peaceful resolution of protests in the region.

In May, the protests in GBAO resumed as people demanded thorough investigation into the 2021 death of an activist while in police custody and the refusal by regional authorities to consider the resignation of regional Governor Alisher Mirzonabot and Mayor Rizo Nazarzoda of GBAO's capital, Khorugh.

The rallies intensified after one of the protesters, 29-year-old Zamir Nazrishoev, was killed by police on May 16, prompting the authorities to launch a "counterterrorist operation."

Authorities violently dispersed the protesters, arresting dozens. Irgashev and at least six other members of Commission 44 were among those apprehended. Two of them were later sentenced to 18 years in prison each.

Relatives and human rights organizations have insisted the activists were illegally arrested, saying they were defending the rights of GBAO residents.

In August, Tajikistan's Supreme Court recognized Commission 44 as a criminal group.

On October 7, the Tajik Prosecutor-General's Office said 77 people were convicted and handed prison terms over their involvement in the GBAO protests, adding that dozens of others are awaiting their trials.

Deep tensions between the Tajik government and residents of the volatile GBAO have simmered since a five-year civil war broke out shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

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 that he has ruled with an iron fist for nearly three decades.