DUSHANBE — A court in Dushanbe has sentenced noted Tajik journalist Zavqibek Saidamini to seven years in prison on charges of cooperating with two banned opposition groups, the latest in a series of cases being brought against media members that rights groups say are politically motivated.
Saidamini’s lawyer, Zoirsho Davlatyorov, told RFE/RL on November 4 that the Ismoili Somoni district court had sentenced his client late in the evening the previous day. He did not give any other details, saying it was not clear if the court’s ruling will be appealed.
Prosecutors had sought 7 1/2 years in prison for the journalist.
Saidamini was arrested in July and charged with having links with the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) and the opposition Group 24 movement. He has rejected the allegations, saying he has nothing to do with the two groups.
The IRPT, long an influential party with representatives in government and parliament, was labeled a terrorist group and banned in Tajikistan in 2015.
Dozens of IRPT officials and supporters have been prosecuted and many of them imprisoned, drawing criticism from human rights groups.
Group 24 was founded by well-known businessman and opposition politician Umarali Quvatov in 2012.
In 2014, Tajikistan’s Supreme Court found the group extremist and banned it from the country. Dozens of the group’s members and supporters have been arrested and many of them sentenced to lengthy prison terms.
In March 2015, Quvatov was assassinated in Istanbul.
Currently, Tajik journalists and bloggers Ulfatkhonim Mamadshoeva, Abdusattor Pirmuhammadzoda, and Hushom Gulyuam are in custody waiting for their trials on extremism charges that human rights groups call politically motivated.
Earlier this year, journalists Abdullo Ghurbati, Mamadsulton Mavlonazarov, and Daleri Imomali were sentenced to prison terms of between seven and 10 years on extremism charges.
Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, who has run the country for almost 30 years, has been criticized by international human rights groups over his administration’s alleged disregard for independent media, religious freedoms, civil society, and political pluralism in the tightly controlled former Soviet republic.