Another Tajik Activist Detained In Moscow; Relatives Fear His Extradition To Dushanbe

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DUSHANBE -- A Tajik activist from the Central Asian nation's restive Gorno-Badakhshan Region (GBAO) has reportedly been arrested in Moscow and may be extradited to Tajikistan, where his relatives say he faces illegal incarceration and arbitrary prosecution.

Relatives of Mamadbek Atobekov told RFE/RL on September 2 that the activist was detained in Moscow a day earlier, adding that two Tajik police officers were among the Russian law enforcement officers who took him into custody.

It is not known where Atobekov is being kept as Moscow police have not commented on his arrest.

According to the relatives, another GBAO native, Mansur Dildorbekov, was arrested along with Atobekov but released an hour later.

Two weeks earlier, another GBAO native, noted blogger Maqsud Ghayosov, was arrested in Moscow and has been held incommunicado since.

The Pamir Daily News website that monitors developments in the GBAO says at least 20 of the region's natives have been detained in Moscow and forcibly brought to Tajikistan in the last six months.

Relatives and rights defenders say that the arrests in Moscow were most likely linked mass protests in the GBAO that were violently dispersed by the authorities in May.

Deep tensions between the Tajik government and residents of the volatile GBAO have simmered since a five-year civil war broke out shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Protests are rare in tightly controlled Tajikistan, where President Emomali Rahmon has ruled with an iron fist for nearly three decades.

The latest crackdown on activists in the GBAO followed protests initially sparked by anger over the lack of an investigation into the 2021 death of an activist while in police custody and the refusal by regional authorities to consider the resignation of regional Governor Alisher Mirzonabot and Khorugh Mayor Rizo Nazarzoda.

The rallies intensified after one of the protesters, 29-year-old Zamir Nazrishoev, was killed by police on May 16, prompting the authorities to launch what they called a "counterterrorist operation."

The escalating violence in the region has sparked a call for restraint from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Western diplomatic missions in Tajikistan, and human rights groups.

Also, on September 2, sources close to law enforcement structures told RFE/RL that a Tajik activist, Emomali Kholov, who was arrested in Russia and extradited to Tajikistan in June, is suspected of having links with banned opposition Group 24 movement and may face up to eight years in prison if convicted.

Group 24 was labeled as extremist and banned in 2014. In March 2015, the movement's founder, businessman and politician Umarali Quvatov, was assassinated in Istanbul.

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