Tajikistan court jails 2 opposition leaders for life

AP News
Posted: Jun 02, 2016 8:46 AM

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan (AP) — A court in Tajikistan on Thursday sentenced two leaders of the Central Asian nation's banned Islamic opposition party to life imprisonment over an alleged attempted coup.

In addition to Mahmadali Hayit and Saidumar Khusaini, the Supreme Court sentenced another 12 top members of the Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan, or IRPT, to prison terms of between two and 28 years at the end of a closed-doors trial that has been condemned by rights activists and the international community.

Before it was banned last year, the party represented the only popular political group in the former Soviet nation opposed to President Emomali Rakhmon's rule.

New York-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch has cited relatives of the IRPT leaders on trial as saying the politicians were subjected to physical abuse while in prison. A lawyer who agreed to act for the IRPT after authorities first filed the case against them in September was himself subsequently arrested on fraud charges that rights groups have described as trumped-up.

A constitutional referendum held last month opened the way for Rakhmon to serve indefinitely as president of the impoverished and corruption-ridden country. The 63-year old former collective farm boss has ruled Tajikistan since 1992.

Instability in Afghanistan has been central to the government's mantra of retaining stability at all costs. In recognition of the potential threat from Afghanistan, the United States has provided substantial military aid to Tajikistan as part of efforts to combat terrorism and drug-trafficking.