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Opposition journalist in great danger in Tajik prison

This statement was originally published on rsf.org on 11 August 2016.

Reporters Without Borders has received alarming information about imprisoned journalist Khikmatullo Sayfullozoda's state of health, which is deteriorating dangerously, and calls on the Tajik authorities to give him access to the medical care he needs without delay.

The editor of Najot, a newspaper linked to the opposition Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), Sayfullozoda was arrested on 16 September 2015, at the same time as the IRPT's leaders, and was sentenced to 16 years in prison on 2 June 2016.

Aged 66, he is still in a overcrowded centre for provisional detainees, where he is being subjected to various forms of mistreatment including sleep deprivation. He has heart problems and pains in the legs, one of which is reportedly gangrenous.

According to the latest information, he nonetheless continues to be denied access to the treatment he needs. The IRPT reports that he has just begun a hunger strike.

“Khikmatullo Sayfullozoda is in danger of dying and must be given appropriate medical treatment as a matter of urgency,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF's Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.

“Convicted at the end of a sham trial for purely political reasons, this journalist has no place being in prison. It is vital that the international community should put pressure on the Tajik government to end its campaign to suppress media freedom.”

Tajikistan's main opposition party, the IRPT was banned in September 2015 and its leaders were arrested for allegedly trying to overthrow the government.

A mysterious attack on a police station in a Dushanbe suburb served as a pretext for the crackdown, the latest in a series of autocratic measures by President Emomali Rakhmon. Harassment of independent journalists has also intensified in recent years. Several lawyers who defended the IRPT's leaders were themselves tried and convicted, while two thirds of the country's lawyers have been disbarred.

Tajikistan fell 34 places in RSF's 2016 World Press Freedom Index and is now ranked 150th out of 180 countries.

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