Tajik Journalist Mamadshoeva Sentenced To 21 Years In Prison


DUSHANBE -- Tajikistan's Supreme Court has sentenced noted journalist and civil rights activist Ulfatkhonim Mamadshoeva to 21 years in prison on charges related to deadly May protests in the Gorno-Badakhshan region, which rights watchdogs have called trumped-up.

Sources close to law enforcement structures told RFE/RL on December 9 that Mamadshoeva was sentenced earlier in the week. The trial was held behind closed doors.

Mamadshoeva and her former husband, Kholbash Kholbashov, were arrested in May and charged with publicly calling for the violent change of Tajikistan's constitutional order, organizing a criminal group, murder, attempted murder, and terrorism.

Kholbashov was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in September.

Shortly after their arrest, Kholbashov and Mamadshoeva were shown on the Tojikiston television channel saying that they were among the people who had planned and organized the protests.

The day before her arrest, Mamadshoeva told RFE/RL that she had nothing to do with the anti-government protests in the regional capital Khorugh, and in the district of Rushon.

Tajik authorities have said 10 people were killed and 27 injured during the clashes between protesters and police. Residents of the Rushon district, however, have told RFE/RL 21 bodies were found at the sites where the clashes took place.

The escalating violence in the region sparked a call for restraint from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Western diplomatic missions in Tajikistan, and human rights groups.

Gorno-Badakhshan, a linguistically and ethnically distinct region, was home to rebels who opposed government forces during the conflict in the 1990s.

While it occupies almost half of the entire country, its population is a mere 250,000. The region is difficult to travel around because of the mountainous terrain, while its economy is wracked by unemployment, difficult living conditions, and high food prices.