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Tajikistan's Banned Islamic Party Claims Former Members Hit By 'Wave Of Arrests'

Although Tajikistan’s Islamic Renaissance Party (aka Islamic Revival Party) has been banned and dispersed, it claims that retaliations continue against former members. (file photo)

The Islamic Renaissance Party (IRPT) says it halted its activities in Tajikistan nearly three years ago, when it was outlawed by the Supreme Court. What hasn't stopped, the Islam-rooted party claims, is the government's persecution of its followers.

In a statement released on June 11, the IRPT accused Tajik authorities of targeting "the opposition and especially the IRPT members" with a "new wave of arrests and retaliation," a claim swiftly rejected by Dushanbe.

The IRPT statement said that more than 100 former party members have been detained since the beginning of 2017 -- two of them, it added, died in custody "due to pressure and torture."

A list provided by the IRPT identified the two men as Komil Khojanazarov and Hoji Ghaybullo, residents of the northern Tajik districts of Asht and Istaravshan, respectively.

According to the statement, 27 of the detained were given prison sentences ranging from three to 25 years. Most were charged with affiliation with the outlawed Salafi movement or for having links to the IRPT, which was banned in 2015, the statement said.

Among the 27 listed was Alijon Sharipov, a 32-year-old man with no party affiliation who in May was sentenced to nine-and-half years in prison for watching, liking, and sharing information about IRPT gatherings on social media.

Sharipov was found guilty of "calling for extremism, calling for the overthrow of the government, and working for banned political parties."

Most of the more than 100 allegedly detained were released, the IRPT statement said, and five remain in custody in Dushanbe's police detention center while their cases are being processed.

IRPT leader Muhiddin Kabiri currently lives in self-imposed exile. (file photo)
IRPT leader Muhiddin Kabiri currently lives in self-imposed exile. (file photo)

The party accused Tajik authorities of "systematic mistreatment, insult, beating, and harassing the relatives of the detainees." It also claims that officials "extorted money from the relatives."

The Interior Ministry dismissed the party’s accusations as "baseless," although spokesman Umarjon Emomali told RFE/RL's Tajik Service on June 11 that the ministry would withhold further comment until it could review the list.

An official at Dushanbe police detention center countered the claim that it was housing detainees, telling RFE/RL that there were no IRPT members or relatives of IRPT members in custody. Speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, the official said that no one at the facility was being held for having a connection to the IRPT.

The Supreme Court in 2015 outlawed the IRPT, which was the only legally recognized Islamic party in Central Asia, as a "terrorist organization." The decision came after deadly violence in Dushanbe that the government claimed was a coup attempt carried out by Abduhalim Nazarzoda, a former deputy defense minister.

Authorities promptly arrested dozens of party officials on charges including terrorism and plotting to overthrow the government.

Amid widespread criticism by human rights defenders, several lawyers who represented IRPT officials in court cases were also arrested and handed long-term prison sentences.

IRPT leader Muhiddin Kabiri, who was charged with terrorism and involvement in the coup attempt, denies the accusations. He lives in self-imposed exile abroad.

Written by Farangis Najibullah with reporting by RFE/RL’s Tajik Service.