A man in northern Tajikistan has reportedly been arrested and potentially faces several years in jail for being slightly disrespectful to a poster of President Emomali Rahmon.
Akhbor news website reported last week that Hasan Abdurazokov, an unemployed father of three in the Sughd region, offended Rahmon ahead of the recent Nowruz holidays.
“In public view, he took a picture of Rahmon down from the wall, he threw it to the ground and said: ‘You have everything, you have a good life, and me, I have nothing with which to continue my life,’” an unnamed source familiar with the case was quoted as telling Akhbor.
At the end of 2015, Rahmon was officially named "Founder of Peace and National Unity, Leader of the Nation” — a status that gave him de facto powers for life. And last year, a law was added to the statute books making it an offense to in any way insult the Leader of the Nation.
If the prosecution goes ahead, it would be the first ever to be pursued under the law criminalizing insulting the Leader of the Nation, which is punishable by up to five years in jail. It is worth noting, however, that legislation already exists to make insulting the president punishable by prison, so Abdurazokov in effect violated two laws at the same time. However, while presidents may come and go, Rahmon will remain the only Leader of the Nation.
Authorities have avoided commenting publicly on Abdurazokov’s case and sources have said no lawyers have agreed to take up the case. Lawyers taking on cases on behalf of politically problematic figures have themselves ended up object of harassment and, in some instances, received draconian prison terms on flimsy charges.
The exact rules as to what constitutes insulting the president are troublingly vague. Sources have informed EurasiaNet.org that even those “liking” problem posts on social media could potentially fall under the law. The Interior Ministry, General Prosecutor’s Office and security services all are said to monitor social media for such content, although it is unclear how systematic their efforts truly are.
Another piece of legislation in the works envisions penalties for all those failing to properly implement any decrees or instructions promulgated by the Leader of the Nation.