A political activist who was deported to Tajikistan by Germany in January has been sentenced to seven years in prison on charges of sedition.
Abdullo Shamsiddin’s supporters have said his apparent crime was to “like” a post on social media. It is unclear what the content of the post was.
The trial was held behind closed doors and details of the case have been reported by Azda, an online news website linked to the exiled opposition.
Shamsiddin, 32, is the son of Shamsiddin Saidov, a leading figure within the Islamic Renaissance Party in Tajikistan, which was the only significant opposition force within the country until it was outlawed in 2015. He has lived in Germany since 2009, but ran into trouble, according to a report by RFE/RL’s Tajik service, when he failed to register with the German migration service. Shamsiddin was also reportedly denied asylum on three occasions.
Activists and rights group pleaded with the German authorities not to proceed with deportation. The expulsion nevertheless went ahead on January 18, when Shamsiddin called his wife from an airport to tell her that it was likely he was to be flown directly to Tajikistan.
Germany’s consent to hand over a political activist to a deeply authoritarian government has generated dismay among the rights community.
“There is serious and well-founded concern over his wellbeing in Tajikistan, a country with a terrible human rights record where opposition activists, human rights defenders, and journalists are jailed on politically motivated charges. Torture in prison is widespread,” Hugh Williamson, head of Human Rights Watch’s Europe and Central Asia Division, said in a statement.
The German Embassy in Dushanbe has not commented publicly on the case.
In a detail that illustrates well how Tajikistan’s justice system operates, Shamsiddin’s exact whereabouts were a mystery for around two months. Multiple officials insisted they had no information to share.
Only after a series of pickets mounted by Tajik opposition groups outside several of the country's embassies was Shamsiddin permitted, on March 7, to call his wife to inform her that he was being kept at a pre-trial detention facility of the State Committee for National Security, or GKNB, a successor agency to the KGB.
This is not the first time a Western European country has expelled Tajik activists to their home country. Amid vocal protests, Austria in 2020 deported 29-year-old Hizbullo Shovalizoda. Back in Tajikistan, Shovalizoda was sentenced to 20 years in prison for charges including extremism and treason.