HRW Demands Immediate Release Of Two Tajik Bloggers

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Human Rights Watch (HRW) has demanded Tajik officials immediately release two independent bloggers arrested last week and drop "bogus charges" against them.

In a statement on June 22, HRW said that Abdullo Ghurbati and Daleri Imomali, who were detained on June 15 and sent to pretrial detention for two months three days later, "are being targeted for their professional activities, despite being protected by Tajikistan’s laws and international obligations on freedom of expression and media freedom.”

“Criticizing state institutions is not a crime, and the bloggers should be released immediately and all charges against them dropped,” HRW's Central Asia researcher, Syinat Sultanalieva, said in the statement.

Authorities accuse Ghurbati of beating a police officer at the Shohmansur district police station in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, a charge that could carry a fine or a two-year prison sentence.

Imomali was charged with illegal entrepreneurship and premeditated false denunciation.

The two have denied the accusations and pleaded not guilty.

“Critical voices and opinions are important for a democratic society and stifling them is a violation of international human rights norms on freedom of expression,” Sultanalieva said.

“Journalists and bloggers currently in detention for their work should be released and their cases independently reviewed,” she added.

The two bloggers' arrests came after an outcry by human rights advocates and media groups over an attack on journalists from RFE/RL's Tajik Service and Current Time last month. Tajik authorities have launched a probe into the incident.

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon has been criticized by international human rights groups for years over his disregard for independent media, religious freedoms, civil society, and political pluralism in the tightly controlled former Soviet republic.

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