Human Rights Watch (HRW) has reiterated its calls on Tajik authorities to release prominent journalist Hairullo Mirsaidov, after his pretrial detention was extended by another two months.
“Bad news from #Tajikistan: Pre-trial detention of independent journalist #KhayrulloMirsaidov is extended by another TWO MONTHS,” Steve Swerdlow, the Central Asia researcher for the New York-based rights group, wrote in a message on Twitter on February 10.
“He has been unlawfully behind bars already for over two months,” Swerdlow wrote. “This travesty of justice should end now.”
Mirsaidov was charged in December with embezzlement, forgery, false reporting to police, and inciting ethnic and religious hatred and could be sentenced to 21 years in prison if tried and convicted.
The journalist’s father, Khabibullo Mirsaidov, has told RFE/RL that his son denies the charges.
The Prosecutor-General’s Office of Soghd region told Dushanbe-based Asia-Plus news agency last week that Mirsaidov’s pretrial detention was extended at the request of the prosecutor with a view to conducting a “full and objective investigation” of the case.
Mirsaidov is an independent journalist and a former correspondent of Asia-Plus and Germany’s Deutsche Welle radio.
He is also the leader of the Tajikistani national KVN comedy team, a stand-up comedy competition which originated among university students in the Soviet Union and is still popular in many post-Soviet states.
His case has drawn international attention, with London-based Amnesty International describing him as “a prisoner of conscience who is being punished solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression.”
In New York, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said journalists like Mirsaidov should be recognized for the important work they do, not locked up on bogus charges.”
Mirsaidov was initially detained in his native city of Khujand on December 5, weeks after he published an open letter to President Emomali Rahmon, Prosecutor-General Yusuf Rahmon, and Sughd region Governor Abdurahmon Qodiri asking them to crack down on corrupt local authorities.