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President asked to intercede in detained journalist's case

(RSF/IFEX) – 7 September 2011 – Reporters Without Borders and the National Association of Independent Mass Media in Tajikistan (NANSMIT) wrote to Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon today asking him to ensure that detained journalist Makhmadyusuf Ismoilov receive a fair trial and an immediate conditional release pending the outcome of the trial. Ismoilov has been unjustly held in connection with his reporting since 23 November 2010.

Dear President,

The international press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders and the National Association of Independent Mass Media in Tajikistan (NANSMIT) would like to share with you their relief at BBC correspondent Urinboy Usmonov's recent provisional release and we would like to thank you if it was because of your intervention. We are following his trial closely.

On the eve of International Day of Solidarity with Journalists, we would now like to draw your attention to the case of Makhmadyusuf Ismoilov, a journalist detained in the northern province of Sughd since 23 November 2010, whose case has similarities to Mr. Usmonov's. As guarantor of your country's Constitution and the international conventions it has ratified, we urge you to do everything in your power to ensure respect for the presumption of innocence and a fair trial for Mr. Ismoilov.

Mr. Ismoilov is charged with inciting religious and racial hatred (article 189 of the criminal code), blackmail (article 250), defamation (article 135) and insult (article 136) for what he wrote in various publications including the newspaper Nuri Zindagi about alleged corruption by local judicial and political officials.

A Sughd provincial court ordered him detained for the duration of the investigation. But there are continuing doubts about the impartiality of the court and the impartiality of the investigation. The local judicial apparatus is acting as both judge and plaintiff in this case because it was the target of Mr. Ismoilov's articles.

We therefore urge you to intercede with the judicial authorities, within the limits of your powers under the Constitution, so that an additional investigation can be conducted and so that Mr. Ismoilov's trial can be transferred to a different location such as Dushanbe and be heard by a court that is not directly involved.

In order to respect the principle of the presumption of innocence, Mr. Ismoilov must also be granted provisional release without delay. Pre-trial detention is a serious measure that seems out of all proportion in this case. He is not in a position to put pressure on witnesses or eliminate evidence. Depriving Mr. Ismoilov of his freedom seems more like an act of personal revenge than an act of impartial justice.

As president, you have a duty to ensure that Mr. Ismoilov is treated in a fair and equitable manner and that national and international rules of justice are respected. We trust that you will appreciate the importance of our request and will take the appropriate action.


Jean-François Julliard, Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General
Nuriddin Karshiboev, NANSMIT Chairman

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    Urunboy Usmonov was released on bail on 14 July 2011 after signing a written pledge to remain in the country to face criminal charges.

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