A well-known comic and journalist in Tajikistan has been arrested, weeks after complaining publicly about alleged corruption in his region.
Local media reported on December 8 that prosecutors in the Sughd region are charging Khairullo Mirsaidov with multiple offenses, including embezzlement, which is punishable by up to 12 years in jail.
Mirsaidov owes his public profile to his leading involvement with the KVN comedy league, a much-loved post-Soviet cultural institution in which teams are pitted against one another in tests of wit and improvasation skills. Until 2014, Mirsaidov had worked as the regional correspondent for Asia-Plus newspaper and for Germany broadcaster Deutsche Welle.
In November, Mirsaidov wrote a public letter to President Emomali Rahmon, the general prosector and the governor of his native Sughd region to draw their attention to what he described as his enounter with attempted extortion by local officials. Specifically, he accused the head of the sports and youth department for the Sugh regional government, Olim Zohidov, of seeking $1,000 in kickbacks.
While no investigation appears to been initiated over those claimed attempts to fiddle the process whereby local government provides funding for the KVN squad, Mirsaidov is facing not just the embezzlement rap, but also charges of inciting ethnic or religious hatred, forging documents and providing false testimony to the police.
Prosecutors declined to provide reporters from Asia-Plus newspaper any details about the specifics of the inciting hatred charge, describing this as confidential information.
Tajikistan’s KVN team had been due to attend a competitve event in Moscow on December and a KVN festival in Sochi. Failure to attend the latter event could see the offending national team excluded for a year from the official KVN league, so Mirsaidov’s detention may presage dispiriting consequences for his colleagues.