Trial Starts for Suspect in Tourist Killings in Tajikistan

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DUSHANBE, TAJIKISTAN A man who swore allegiance to the Islamic State militant group before killing four foreign cyclists in ex-Soviet Tajikistan went on trial Tuesday in a process closed to the public.

Tajikistan's Supreme Court spokesperson told AFP Tuesday the trial for the "brutal murder of four foreign cyclists" had begun in the suspect's high-security detention center.

Hussein Abdusamadov, 33, already confessed to killing American cycling tourists Lauren Geoghegan and Jay Austin, Dutch citizen Rene Wokke and Swiss citizen Markus Hummel in July.

The victims were struck by a car as they cycled back from the remote Pamir Highway, a popular route among adventure tourists, before being set upon with knives and firearms.

Four of Abdusamadov's accomplices were killed by police during a manhunt.

A video of the five men pledging allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was released by an official IS media channel.

Tajik authorities have so far ignored the video evidence, instead blaming a former opposition party - the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan - that was banned by the government in 2015.

The fact the trial is closed has raised concerns about due process in a country with a poor record on political freedoms and human rights.

Abdusamadov implicated the IRPT as the ultimate organizer of the attack in a televised confession, but critics say the government is using the case to tar the opposition.

A dozen senior members of the IRPT are serving long sentences up to life on charges government critics say are trumped up.

In addition to Abdusamadov, 16 other people stand accused of not offering information to the authorities that could have prevented the attack, a source in the police told AFP.\

Source: Voice of America