On January 18th, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on human rights in Tajikistan which condemns the ongoing crackdown against independent media, government critics, human rights activists and independent lawyers, as well as the closure of independent media and websites. Parliament members urged the authorities to stop persecuting lawyers defending government critics and journalists, and immediately and unconditionally release those arbitrarily detained and drop all charges against them, including human rights lawyers Manuchehr Kholiknazarov and Buzurgmehr Yorov. In the resolution, the European Parliament members insisted that respect for freedom of expression in Tajikistan should be taken into account when assessing the application of the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP+) for Tajikistan and negotiations of a new EU-Tajikistan Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. In December 2023, the chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Ben Cardin sent a letter to the President of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon, urging him to cease acts of domestic and transnational repression against political opponents and religious minorities. “There are persistent reports of arbitrary arrest, denial of judicial due process, as well as acts of violence including torture, assault and even instances of murder of journalists, political dissidents, as well as community and religious leaders,” Cardin wrote. In recent years, several Tajik journalists, activists, and opposition politicians have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms largely based on accusations of collaborating with organizations labelled as extremist or banned in Tajikistan.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image="13842" img_size="full" el_class="scond-image" parallax_scroll="no" woodmart_inline="no"][vc_column_text woodmart_inline="no" text_larger="no"]Still a relatively young country, the official date of the independence of Tajikistan - a front-line state facing the extremism of the Taliban - is September 9th 1991. Whilst criticisms are warranted and accurate, particularly through the prism of western democracy, the crux of the problem would appear to be endemic corruption and weak institutions propagated by kleptocratic wealth and organized crime. As to how high up the criminality goes, in 2000 the Tajik Ambassador to Kazakhstan was arrested in Almaty with 86 kilos of heroin in his car. In 2001, the Deputy Minister of the Interior was murdered, the prosecution in the case arguing he’d been assassinated for refusing to pay for a shipment of 50 kilos. A statement released by the UNDP in 2001 estimated that drug money accounted for between 30 -50% of the Tajik economy. The year Tajikistan took over policing of its border with Afghanistan from the Russians, seizures of heroin halved. Piqued by the critical international response, President Rahmon levelled counter-allegations of Russian complicity in the heroin trade. “Why do you think generals lined up in Moscow all the way across Red Square and paid enormous bribes to be assigned here?” he complained to U.S. officials. “Just so they could do their patriotic duty?”
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The criminal case against Samat Abish, nephew of the former President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, is set to proceed to trial in Astana. The investigation conducted by the General Prosecutor's Office has concluded, and the case has been transferred to the courts. This will be the first time a relative of Nazarbayev has been tried on charges related to the violent events of January 2022. Details of the pre-trial investigation will not be made available to the public, as the case involves state secrets. Abish is being charged under Article 362 (Part 4) of the Criminal Code, "Exceeding official powers," which could result in up to five years imprisonment and the confiscation of property if he is convicted. Abish, aged 45, is the son of Satybaldy Abishevich Nazarbayev, the younger brother of the former president who died in a car accident in 1981. Abish took his surname in honor of his grandfather. Abish lost his position as the First Deputy Chairman of the National Security Committee of Kazakhstan on January 5th 2022, amidst riots across the country. Alongside him, the head of the KNB, Karim Massimov, and the Prime Minister, Askar Mamin, were also dismissed. Two days later, Abish was detained in Almaty and charged in connection with the January events. Investigators attributed primary responsibility for the tumultuous events of early 2022 to Karim Massimov, Abish's direct supervisor, and his three deputies. President Tokayev stated during an extraordinary session of the CSTO Collective Security Council on January 10th 2023, that the events were an attempt to seize power by high-ranking officials. Abish's sibling, Kairat Satybaldy, was convicted on corruption charges last year for embezzling tens of millions of U.S. dollars.