A Tajik journalist has been sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for assaulting a police officer and membership of a banned extremist group.
The journalist and documentary filmmaker Avazmad Ghurbatov, aged 26, was jailed behind closed doors in Dushanbe, Tajikistan on Tuesday, 4th October.
Ghurbatov, who works under the name Abdullo Ghurbati, was first arrested and detained alongside blogger and government critic Daleri Imomali on Wednesday, 15th June.
Imomali, whose real name is Daler Bobiev, remains detained and is currently awaiting trial on multiple charges including participation in banned groups.
Ghurbati’s lawyer Abdurahmon Sharipov stated that prosecutors demanded an eight-year-long prison sentence for the journalist at first.
But the Shohmansur District Court instead sentenced him to seven and a half years in prison for publicly insulting an authority, minor assault of an authority, and participating in the activities of an extremist group.
Media reported that the hindmost charge was related to the defendant’s alleged business connections with businessman Idibek Latipov who has been based in Egypt as of 2007.
The investigation showed that the 26-year-old journalist received money from the businessman after he made a YouTube video to advertise his company.
Latipov was then listed on the Tajik National Bank’s registry of individuals involved in “terrorist or extremist activities”, which Ghurbati claimed he was not aware of.
He also claimed during the trial that his relations with Latipov at the time were purely business-related and continued insisting he was not guilty.
He has so far pleaded not guilty to all charges and called the case against him unfounded.
Meanwhile, the Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the ruling and said in a statement: “We condemn today’s harsh and unjustified sentence against journalist Abdullo Ghurbati, which appears to be a product of Tajik authorities’ discomfort with the growing popularity of the courageous brand of public-interest citizen journalism practised by Ghurbati and his colleague Daler Imomali.
“Authorities in Tajikistan should refrain from contesting Ghurbati’s appeal, immediately release him, Imomali, and all other journalists currently imprisoned for their work, and stop their campaign of intimidation against the country’s beleaguered independent press.”
Media reported that the two journalists are two of at least four others currently detained in the Central Asian country on accusations of major criminal offences.
(T4 / ends)