The government in Tajikistan has banned its only viable opposition, driven its leader into exile and linked it to recent violent unrest, thereby leaving it open to grave criminal charges.
With the bulk of its work done in dismantling the Islamic Renaissance Party, the authorities are now busying themselves expropriating the party’s property and goods.
IRPT told EurasiaNet.org that police entered their offices on September 14 and demanded that the safe be opened. Police proceeded to seize 7,000 somoni ($1,100) and the party’s computer archives, an IRPT representative said.
The offices had been sealed and inaccessible to IRPT staff since August 24, when it ordered shut by a Dushanbe court ruling.
The building belonged to Nematullo Saidov, the son of Said Abdulloh Nuri, who founded the IRPT. Prosecutors have said, however, that the property, which was bought by Saidov from a company called Tijorat, was originally acquired by illegal means.
To compound matters, the prosecutor’s office is measuring the premises in what IRPT representatives believe could be the prelude to fresh accusations of the illegal snatching of a few meters of land.
Authorities are also going after property linked to exiled IRPT leader Mukhiddin Kabiri.
Prosecutors and anticorruption officials over the weekend sealed real estate belonging to Kabiri’s relatives. No explanation has been provided for that action.
Other property targeted included the offices of a construction firm belonging to Kabiri’s brother and a paper napkin and toilet paper factory.
“They confiscated a whole array of production equipment, but because these were fastened down, they were unable to carry them away,” an IRPT representative told EurasiaNet.org.
Registration documents for apartments and homes belonging to Kabiri, his children and other relatives have also been seized.
A raid was carried out at Kabiri’s last residence before leaving Tajikistan following the parliamentary elections in March, which culminated in his party losing its only two seats.
Kabiri had announced his plans to return to Tajikistan on June 27, to mark the Day of Reconciliation — a date that marks the end of the civil war that ravaged the country in the early 1990s.
Kabiri decided against returning, however, after government media mounted a smear attack against him that he believed could serve as a prelude to his eventual arrest.
Another government opponent, Zaid Saidov, returned to Tajikistan from France, only to be promptly arrested in May 2013 on a range of charges, including fraud, corruption, statutory rape and polygamy. Saidov is now serving out a 29-year jailed sentence.
A raft of international rights organizations have called upon Tajikistan to reverse last month’s decision to abolish the IRPT as a legally registered party and cease is harassment of its members.
“This decision not only violates Tajikistan’s core human rights obligations; it has the potential to push legitimate political opposition underground, creating a serious risk of instability in the country,” Bjørn Engesland, secretary general of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, said in a statement.
Human Rights Watch noted that the crackdown against IRPT fits into a broader onslaught against civil and political rights in Tajikistan.
“Authorities have imprisoned opposition activists and journalists, extradited and kidnapped government critics from abroad, and harassed nongovernmental organizations with onerous checks on their activities,” HRW said in a statement. “Torture in pretrial custody and prisons remains a serious problem.”