Tajikistan: Free Autonomous Region Rights Defender

Quash Unfair Conviction; Provide Redress for Violations

(Berlin) – Tajik authorities should release Manuchehr Kholiqnazarov, a human rights defender and lawyer from the Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Region in Tajikistan unfairly convicted in connection with protests in May 2022, eight organizations including Human Rights Watch said today in a statement.

Kholiqnazarov was a member of Commission 44, a joint body including civil society and law enforcement representatives established in 2021 to investigate the death of Gulbiddin Ziyobekov, a resident of the region killed by police in November 2021, whose death sparked protests in Khorog, the regional capital.

On May 28, 2022, Kholiqnazarov was detained with scores of other activists and human rights defenders from Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Region, and charged with “participation in a criminal association” under article 187, and “participating in the activities of a banned organization due to its extremist activities” under article 307 of the Criminal Code of Tajikistan. The trial was held behind closed doors with defendants given no access to lawyers or evidence against them, in violation of fundamental fair trial standards. On December 9, 2022, Tajikistan’s Supreme Court found Kholiqnazarov guilty, sentencing him to 16 years’ imprisonment.

“Manuchehr Kholiqnazarov's conviction is a direct retaliation for his professional activities and adds yet another stain on the Tajikistan government’s human rights record,” said Syinat Sultanalieva, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Kholiqnazarov and other activists from the autonomous region should be released immediately, with their unfair convictions quashed, and receive redress for the violation of their rights.”