Tajikistan: Release of independent journalist a rare victory for freedom of expression

Responding to news that a Tajikistani court has released independent journalist and prisoner of conscience Khayrullo Mirsaidov after more than eight months behind bars for making allegations of government corruption, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said:

“The release of Khayrullo Mirsaidov is welcome, but he should never have been charged in the first place. We will continue to call on the Tajikistani authorities to immediately quash Khayrullo’s conviction and to undertake a thorough, impartial and independent investigation into his allegations of government corruption.”

We will continue to call on the Tajikistani authorities to immediately quash Khayrullo’s conviction and to undertake a thorough, impartial and independent investigation into his allegations of government corruption.
Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Background

Journalist and comedian Khayrullo Mirsaidov was arrested on 5 December 2017 in Khudzhand, the main city of Soghd Region in northern Tajikistan, on charges of “embezzlement or misappropriation of state funds”, “forgery of documents”, “making deliberately false accusations” and “inciting
national, racial, regional or religious enmity.” The latter charge was later dismissed due to lack of evidence.

Amnesty International has reason to believe Khayrullo Mirsaidov’s admission to charges in relation to misappropriation of funds and forgery of documents was made under pressure.

During the trial Khayrullo maintained that his arrest and trial were in retaliation for his criticism of the local authorities in Khudzhand. In November 2017, he wrote an open letter to the President and the Prosecutor General of Tajikistan, as well as to the Chairman of Soghd Region, in which he made corruption allegations against local officials in Khudzhand.

On 11 July 2018, Khayrullo Mirsaidov was found guilty of embezzlement, misuse of state funds and making false accusations. A court in northern Tajikistan sentenced him to 12 years in prison and fined him 124,000 somonis ($13,500) for alleged damages against the state.

On 22 August, Soghd Regional Court reviewed Khayrullo’s case on appeal and replaced his jail term with a fine of 80,000 somoni ($8,500) under Articles 245 and 340 of the criminal code and sentenced him to a year of community service under Article 346.