Tajikistan: Opposition party accuses authorities of concealing truth about deadly prison riot


DUSHANBE (TCA) — Tajikistan’s banned opposition Islamic Renaissance Party (IRPT) has accused authorities of concealing the truth about a deadly prison riot that the Dushanbe government said killed 32 people, including three members of the group, RFE/RL reported.

In a statement late on May 20, the IRPT said the actual death toll from the prison riot late on May 19 near the capital Dushanbe was much higher, according to their own sources.

Tajikistan’s Interior Ministry said that three prison guards and 29 inmates, including three IRPT members, were killed in the riot that broke out in a maximum-security prison in the Vahdat district, some 15 kilometers east of Dushanbe.

The IRPT was a major opposition group before authorities outlawed it in 2015, in a move widely criticized as unjustified and politically motivated.

The Interior Ministry said 17 of the slain inmates were members of the extremist group Islamic State (IS), a claim that could not be independently verified.

The May 20 riot was the second deadly prison clash to hit the country in the last six months.

In its statement, the IRPT said authorities had also concealed details about the prison riot in November in which the government said 21 prisoners and two prison guards were killed.

The statement said authorities had given the public “very vague and unclear” information about both riots, leading to “questions and suspicions.”

“The IRPT holds the government fully responsible for the riots and their outcomes as its policies in recent years have been plagued by violence against political parties, activist groups, and individuals,” the statement said.

“The IRPT leadership also stresses that the health and safety of its members in custody and that of other inmates is the government’s responsibility,” the party added.

The statement called for an independent investigation into the riots, with the participation of “independent journalists and international organizations” like the International Committee of the Red Cross.

RFE/RL correspondents reported on May 20 that the three guards killed in the riot were buried.

At least two inmates killed in the riot were also buried, including 20-year-old Behruz Gulmurod, the eldest son of Gulmurod Halimov, a former commander of the Tajik Interior Ministry’s special forces who joined the IS group in 2015. He was buried without the presence of family and was not given the traditional Islamic funeral prayer.

IRPT member Sattor Karimov was buried on the same day in Dushanbe. His family was in attendance and he was given an Islamic funeral.

Sergey Kwan