A court in Tajikistan has jailed yet another top opposition figure — a member of Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan’s leadership council, Jaloliddin Mahmudov.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Tajik service said Mahmudov was sentenced on July 20 to five years in a maximum security jail by the Hissor district court for the illegal trade and possession of weapons.
Mahmudov has for several years served as IRPT’s representative on the central election commission. He was detained in February, some three weeks before the parliamentary elections.
IRPT lost the only two seats it had in parliament in that vote, which was roundly condemned by international monitors. The party described Mahmudov’s arrest at such an important juncture for its fate as a politically motivated move.
With its leader fearing to return home for fear of prosecution and another leading party light now behind bars, IRPT looks more than ever like a spent force inside Tajikistan.
Other political figures placed behind bars in Tajikistan in recent times include:
- Maqsood Ibragimov, a Russia-based opposition activist who was earlier this month sentenced to 17 years in jail on extremism charges;
- Zaid Saidov, a former minister-turned-government foe sentenced to 26 years in prison in 2013 on charges of fraud, corruption, statutory rape and polygamy;
- Sherik Karamhudoev, formerly head of the IRPT in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region, sentenced to 14 years in jail in 2013 for allegedly orchestrating a criminal organization and the illegal possession of firearms. His relatives said he was tortured while in detention, a claim that the authorities deny;
- Shabnam Khudoidodova, an activist with the Group 24 movement opposition, is being held in a detention facility in Belarus, pending consideration of an extradition request from Tajikistan.
And that is not to speak of those that have been killed in murky circumstances. A lone gunman shot and killed Umarali Quvvatov, one of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon’s most aggressive critics, on March 5 in Istanbul. He was seeking asylum in Turkey at the time of his killing.
Tajikistan rejects all suggests that it is indulging in a political witch-hunt and says that IRPT in particular is just looking for trouble. The General Prosecutor's Office said in a statement posted earlier this month on the Khovar state news agency that IRPT’s claims of harassment amounted to “no more than populism” and that it should “refrain from spreading baseless appeals.”
This post has been updated to reflect a clarification by a Dushanbe court stating that Ibragimov has been jailed for 17 years, not 13 years, as was reported earlier by rights activists.