Tajik journalist who could die in prison must be included in amnesty, RSF says
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Tajik authorities to add Khikmatullo Sayfullozoda, a journalist imprisoned since 2015 in conditions that are endangering his life, to the list of thousands of prisoners due to be freed under an amnesty issued by President Emomali Rahmon to mark the 30th anniversary of Tajikistan’s independence.
The editor of the opposition weekly Najot and a member of the Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), Khikmatullo Sayfullozoda was sentenced to 16 years in prison in June 2016. He is being held in the most appalling conditions and, now aged 70, has many health problems. He contracted a serious form of Covid-19 and underwent a heart operation on 16 June in the infirmary of the prison where he is serving his sentence.
Around 16,000 prisoners are expected to be freed under the amnesty law adopted by the Tajik parliament on 6 September and signed by the president to mark the 30th anniversary of Tajikistan’s independence. But those convicted under article 307 of the penal code – on public calls for modification of Tajikistan’s constitutional system by force – will only have their sentences reduced by between one and four years, and will not be amnestied.
Like the leaders of the IRPT, the main opposition party, Sayfullozoda was arrested on a charge of “trying to overthrow the government” when the party was banned in September 2015, so he will probably not be among those who are released. His sentence will probably be reduced by only four years, although he should benefit from the priority release reserved for persons over the age of 55 who are seriously ill.
“Khikmatullo Sayfullozoda is in danger of dying in prison,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “Detained for purely political reasons, he risks spending another ten years behind bars, where he is the victim of mistreatment. His release could save his life. Furthermore, he poses no danger to society or to the authorities in Tajikistan. We ask the Tajik authorities to add him to the list of amnestied prisoners and to free him at once.”
As a result of President Rahmon’s increasingly repressive policies, Tajikistan has fallen 46 places in RSF's World Press Freedom Index since 2015 and is now ranked 162nd out of 180 countries.