A group of seven international rights organizations have called on Dushanbe for the second time since April to immediately and unconditionally release lawyer Manuchehr Kholiqnazarov, who is serving 16 years in prison for his human rights activities in Tajikistan.
“Manuchehr dedicated his life to advocating for justice for ordinary people and ensuring that every individual is treated fairly under the law…and now he needs your help,” a joint video statement by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, the International Partnership for Human Rights, Amnesty International, Freedom Now, The Observatory, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, and FrontLine Defenders said.
The statement appealed for Internet users across the world to send postcards to the imprisoned lawyer with messages of support and to write the Tajik Foreign Ministry to demand Kholiqnazarov’s immediate release.
Kholiqnazarov is the director of the Lawyers Association of Pamir, one of the few civil society organizations active in Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan region.
After mass protests erupted in the region in November 2021 following the extrajudicial killing of Khorugh district resident Gulbiddin Ziyobekov, Kholiqnazarov joined the Commission 44 organization — in which members of law enforcement agencies and local civil society representatives joined to investigate the reasons behind the unrest.
But in May 2022, the Tajik authorities renewed their crackdown on protests in the region, leading to the arrest of Kholiqnazarov and a dozen other members of Commission 44.
In December 2022, the Supreme Court sentenced Kholiqnazarov to 16 years in prison after finding him guilty of being part of a criminal organization and of participating in the activities of a banned organization engaged in extremist activities.
Kholiqnazarov pleaded not guilty to the charges.
In early April, Human Rights Watch, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Frontline Defenders, International Federation for Human Rights, and Freedom Now issued a joint statement urging Dushanbe to immediately release Kholiqnazaov.
Source: Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty