Authorities in Tajikistan are now targeting family members of the crushed opposition Islamic Renaissance Party (IRPT) in their determination to stamp out all dissent.
Muhammadjon Kabirov, a relative of the party leader Muhiddin Kabiri, told CATV News on December 16 that security service agents descended on their home village and detained people en masse, including the 95-year old family patriarch.
Other family members detained included Kabiri’s brother, 54-year old Safar, and his 60-year old sister Saida.
Ozodagon news website reported on December 17 that all have since been released after giving statements.
“According to a source close to the Kabiri family, they demanded of everybody, including the 95-year old father, that they urge young people not to join in with provocative actions abroad. The interrogations were recorded on videocamera,” Ozodagon reported.
The actions abroad are a reference to the pickets mounted by IRPT supporters in a range of countries, including Turkey, Austria and Germany.
The detentions drew swift condemnation from Washington-based advocacy group Freedom House.
“Using family members as hostages to intimidate and silence government critics violates fundamental human rights and spotlights the government's intolerance of dissent,” Freedom House executive vice president Daniel Calingaert said in a statement. "The government of Tajikistan should end its harassment of opposition and civic activists, human rights defenders, and their family members.”
The IRPT was a vaguely tolerated nominal opposition force until this summer, but authorities seized on the opportunity of what it claimed was an uprising by disaffected former defense minister Abduhalim Nazarzoda to finally crush the party. Prosecutors claimed the party was involved in the alleged revolt and designated it a terrorist organization.
Most leading party officials have been jailed and are awaiting trial, while the leader, Kabiri, is currently evading arrest in exile.