DUSHANBE (TCA) — The main surviving suspect in an attack that killed four foreign cyclists on a mountain road in Tajikistan in July has been convicted of “murder with extreme violence” and other crimes and sentenced to life in prison, participants in the closed-door trial say, RFE/RL’s Tajik Service reported.
A juror in the trial of 15 suspects told RFE/RL that Husein Abdusamadov was found guilty on nine criminal counts and sentenced on November 21. The charges also included terrorism, religious extremism, and recruiting for illegal militant activities.
Two defendants, Karomatullo Ghaniev and Behruz Safoev, were convicted of being members of a criminal group and an extremist organization and sentenced to 16 years in prison each. The other 12 defendants were found guilty of failure to report a crime and sentenced to prison terms between 12 and 18 months.
The court ruled that Bahriniso Haidarova, the only woman among the defendants, will serve her sentence at a later date because she has a young child, according to the juror, a woman who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
The cyclists — an American man and woman, a Dutchman, and a Swiss man — were killed on July 29 when attackers plowed into their group on a road in southern Tajikistan and then stabbed some of them. Two of the foreign cyclists survived.
Out of five men the authorities accused of carrying out the attack, Abdusamadov is the only survivor; officials say the others were killed by security forces during operations aimed at capturing the suspects.
There is no death penalty in Tajikistan.
The extremist group Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the attack shortly after it occurred and released a video showing five men — at least some of whom appeared to resemble those identified by Tajik officials as suspects killed in a confrontation with security forces — pledging allegiance to the leader of IS.
The Tajik government, however, rejected the claim and instead blamed followers of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), a political party that was banned by the authoritarian President Emomali Rahmon’s government in 2015.
The leadership of the IRPT has denied involvement and called the authorities’ claims “shameless and illogical slander.”