Tajikistan: Opposition Politician Dies in Jail as Another's Life is in Balance
A high-ranking member of a banned opposition party in Tajikistan jailed for purportedly masterminding the hoisting of an Islamic State flag in his town has died in prison, Ozadagon news website has reported.
Ozadagon reported on August 16 that Kurbon Mannonov, who was head of the local branch of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan in the town of Nurek, died at detention facility (SIZO) NO. 1 in Dushanbe overnight. At the time of his sentencing, in February, Mannonov was 73 years old.
Ozadagon cited sources in the IRPT as saying that Mannonov had recently complained of ill-health and bleeding.
A couple of cases involving Islamic State flags over the past year have revealed the new depths being probed by the arch-paranoid government as it seeks to crush all those opposed to its rule. Tajikistan’s Western partners have registered only mute condemnation of the regime embrace of outright authoritarian practices and the United States continues to lavish the government with security assistance.
The Khatlon regional court in February sentenced Mannonov and 12 others to jail terms between 10 and 25 years for putting up the terrorist group’s distinctive black flag. Formally, the group was charged with membership in a criminal organization, public calls for the overturning of the constitutional order and extremist activity.
The group was arrested in August, just as the authorities were beginning to ratchet up their pressure against the IRPT, which has since been banned.
State television at the time showed the testimony of some of the detained, who confessed that they had been in contact over social media with Islamic State militants. One Tajik militant called Yunus purportedly ordered the accused to erect the flag as a gesture of their loyalty. It is unclear whether those confessions were rendered under duress, but Tajik police and security services are known to make ample use of physical mistreatment against detainees.
In a similar case, a group of young men in the Khatlon region were sentenced to jail sentences of up to 27 years in December, also for hoisting an Islamic State in a town not far from the border with Afghanistan.
Mannonov’s death comes as concern mounts over the state of health of another leading IRPT figure languishing in jail, Hikmatullo Sayfullozoda.
Advocacy group Reporters Without Borders released a statement last week registering its distress over reports that Sayfullozoda, who is serving a 16-year jail term on trumped-up charges of involvement in an attempted coup, is being “subjected to various forms of mistreatment including sleep deprivation.” RSF said Sayfullozoda is suffering from problems with his heart and pain in his legs, one which is possibly gangrenous.
“Sayfullozoda is in danger of dying and must be given appropriate medical treatment as a matter of urgency,” Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, said in a statement.