The news came on May 11. Tajik prosecutors demanded life sentences for four jailed leaders of the banned Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), the country’s main opposition party. Authorities also sought to imprison 13 other party leaders for up to 30 years.
Among those facing life in prison is Mahmadali Hayit, the party’s deputy chairman, long known in Tajikistan’s civil society circles for his vocal support for human rights, freedom of expression, and freedom of religion.
The harsh sentences sought by prosecutors contrasted sharply with comments only a few days earlier by Tajik Justice Minister Rustam Shohmurod, who attempted to reassure diplomats in Geneva about the state of human rights in the country.
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Steve Swerdlow, Esq., is a Central Asia researcher and Philippe Dam is Europe and Central Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.