Following last September’s events in and around Dushanbe–sparked by the seeming (and short-lived) mutiny of the deputy defense minister and in conjunction with an ongoing government effort over many years to shut down the country’s Islamist opposition party–nearly 200 people were arrested.
Most prominent among those arrested were 13 leading Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) members, including the party’s deputy chairman, Mahmadali Hayit; the first deputy, Saidumar Khusaini; and a dozen others, including two lawyers representing some of the IRPT defendants. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent government commission, said in November 2015 that the arrest of 200 IRPT activists was part of the Tajik government’s “ongoing efforts to control religious activities.” The press release pointed to the fact that those arrested had been denied access to their families and lawyers:
The day after jailed IRPT deputy chairman Saidumar Husain told Buzurgmehr Yorov, his defense attorney, that he had been tortured, Yorov was arrested as was another IRPT attorney. Jailed IRPT lawyer Zarafo Rahmoni reportedly has been severely abused and had threatened to commit suicide unless she was released.
Months later, a bulk of the trials have begun behind closed doors in Dushanbe.
According to Asia-Plus, Tajikistan’s Chief Military Prosecutor, Safarali Mirzozoda, told reporters that investigations into the 199 cases relating to the September events had concluded and would be moving to trial. The majority of the 199, he said, were not members of the IRPT. He also said there were ongoing investigations into foreign funders of the events. There’s been little evidence that the IRPT instigated Nazarzoda’s rebellion and this is the first I’ve heard of foreign influencers (although to be honest, I’m not surprised by the allegation even if I also doubt its validity).
In late November, Hasan Rahimov, an IRPT district chief, was the first to be convicted and sentenced. Rahimov was one of 23 IRPT members known to have been jailed and under investigation since the party was banned in late September. He was convicted on charges of terrorism and extremism and sentenced to 9 years in jail.
The 13 IRPT members now on trial were all arrested before the party was banned and labeled an extremist organization. The party’s leader, Muhiddin Kabiri has been floating around Europe and the Middle East for the past year since going into exile ahead of the doomed parliamentary elections last March–he’s shown up in both Turkey and Iran, much to Tajikistan’s frustration.