PEN is deeply concerned by the detention, reportedly on treason charges, of the blogger and academic Alexander Sodiqov. Sodiqov was arrested whilst carrying out academic research in Khorog, the capital of the autonomous region of Gorno-Badakhshan , Tajikistan, on 16 June 2014. PEN believes that Sodiqov was arrested for practising his right to freedom of expression, and that the charges against him are politically motivated. We call for his immediate and unconditional release.
Alexander Sodiqov, 31, is a popular blogger on Central Asian issues at Global Voices and the Tajikistan Monitor. He was detained by security officers whilst interviewing an opposition leader as part of his research into conflict resolution in Gorno-Badakhshan, a region which has recently seen deadly clashes between protesters and local security forces.
At first, Sodiqov was held in an unknown location, but news reports now say that he is being held in a detention facility run by the State Committee for National Security (SCNS) in Dushnabe. On 17 June, the SCNS issued a statement accusing Sodiqov of spying for foreign governments.
Information recently received by PEN appears to confirm news reports that Sodiqov has now been charged with treason, although this has still not been officially confirmed. If convicted on charges of treason, he could face up to 20 years in jail. PEN also understands that Sodiqov has spent at least some of his time in detention in solitary confinement.
Sodiqov’s family has been denied contact with him and know little about the charges against him. Sodiqov has not been allowed to consult a defence lawyer of his choosing, but, instead, has been allocated one by the Tajik authorities.
Alexander Sodiqov, a Tajik citizen, is a PhD student at the University of Toronto, Canada. At the time of his arrest he was carrying out research in Gorno-Badakhshan as part of a mutli-country research project led by the University of Exeter, called Rising Powers and Conflict Management in Central Asia. Sodiqov is married and has a one-year-old daughter. He is an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience.
The UN’s Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisonersstate: ‘An untried prisoner shall be allowed to inform his family of his detention immediately after arrest and communicate with and receive visits from family and friends.’ They also strictly prohibit the use of inhumane or degrading disciplinary measures, such as solitary confinement. By denying Alexander Sodiqov the opportunity to communicate with his family, and by placing him in solitary confinement, Tajikistan is violating these basic rules.
Gorno-Badakhshan is an autonomous province bordering Afghanistan. Tensions between the authorities in Dushanbe, opposition political groups and local militants have flared in the last couple of years. In July 2012 and May 2014, the region saw violent clashes between central government forces and an armed group.
In recent years the Tajik government has severely restricted freedom of expression by intermittently blocking access to independent websites, filing defamation suits against – and generally harassing – critical journalists.
Write to the Tajik authorities and to your ambassador to Tajikistan:
- Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Alexander Sodiqov, who has been detained on politically motivated charges of treason;
- Urging that Sodiqov be allowed access to a defence lawyer of his choosing in line with Tajikistan’s law and international obligations;
- Demanding that he is allowed access to his family;
- Urging that he is not subject to torture or other ill treatment, including solitary confinement.
You can also tweet: #Tajikistan must free detained academic & blogger Alexander Sodiqov ‘.((strlen(‘http://bit.ly/1jniphA’)>40) ? substr(‘http://bit.ly/1jniphA’,0,40).’…’ : ‘http://bit.ly/1jniphA’).’‘ @pen_int
And you can join a campaign set up by friends and supporters to free Sodiqov:
80 Rudaki Street
Fax: +992 372 21 68 00
Email: mail [at] president [dot] tj
Salutation: Dear President Rahmon
126, A. Sino Avenue
Dushanbe 734043, Tajikistan
(Mark faxes and emails, “Please forward to Prosecutor General”)
Fax: +992 372 21 02 59
Email: info [at] mfa [dot] tj
Salutation: Dear Prosecutor General
Chairman, State Committee for National Security
Ministry of Security
Ul Gorkogo 8
Fax: +992 372 21 23 12
You can find your ambassador to Tajikistan here.