Washington, D.C. – Freedom Now welcomes the release of journalist Daler Sharipov from wrongful detention in Tajikistan. Sharipov was released after completing a one-year prison sentence related to his written work on human rights and religion.
“We are grateful that Daler Sharipov has been released and reunited with his family,” said Freedom Now Executive Director Maran Turner. “His wrongful imprisonment was indicative of Tajikistan’s abuse of anti-extremism laws to suppress legitimate criticism of government policies. We call on the government to quash his conviction and ensure he is not subjected to further persecution. We also call for the immediate and unconditional release of those who remain wrongfully imprisoned in Tajikistan, including Buzurgmehr Yorov, Zayd Saidov, and Mahmadali Hayit.”
Daler Sharipov began his journalism career in 2006 as a presenter for two programs on youth issues hosted by the state-owned television channel Safina. In 2012, Sharipov created Kadam Bakadam (Step by Step), an organization designed to build a coalition of young people to oppose localism and corruption. The government never approved the organization’s registration. Sharipov became the victim of increased harassment and monitoring by the authorities shortly after creating Kadam Bakdadam. In separate incidents, he was repeatedly interrogated by police, beaten by unidentified assailants, and briefly detained after filming the funeral of a famous imam.
Beginning in 2013, Sharipov worked at the Ozodagon news agency where he wrote a regular column. Sharipov’s writings were critical of the government, and throughout his career he covered various matters of public interest, including human rights violations and religious freedom. He was also a strong advocate for press freedom. He collaborated with various media as a freelance writer after the government forced Ozodagon to close in 2019, and opened a bookstore in Dushanbe with friends.
On January 28, 2020, Sharipov was summoned to the State Committee for National Security in Dushanbe where he was arrested without the presentation of a warrant or being informed of the grounds of his arrest. Later that day, police searched Sharipov’s apartment and confiscated a computer and books in Arabic, Tajik, and Russian. He was moved to the State Committee for National Security detention center on January 29 and provided a lawyer by the NGO Independent Center for the Protection of Human Rights. During these first days of detention, Sharipov was held without contact with either his family or his lawyer.
On January 30, Sharipov was indicted under Article 189 of the Criminal Code for “arousing national, racial, local, or religious hatred.” He was ordered to remain in pre-trial detention for two months pending an investigation. His lawyers appealed this decision to the Supreme Court and were denied. On February 1, the Prosecutor General’s Office issued a statement explaining the indictment stemmed from more than 200 articles and notes Sharipov had published between 2013 and 2019 which were allegedly extremist in nature. It emphasized in particular a manuscript regarding the incompatibility of Islam and terrorism published by an underground publisher. The statement alleged the manuscript was written in support of the Muslim Brotherhood. On April 16, 2020, Sharipov was convicted and sentenced to one year in prison.
On May 1, 2020, Freedom Now filed a petition with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on behalf of Sharipov. A decision is still pending.
In June 2020, 12 U.S. Senators sent a series of letters to the leaders of Central Asian nations calling for the release of 10 prisoners of conscience, including Sharipov.