Journalist sentenced to two years in prison

New York, July 29, 2005—A judge in northern Tajikistan yesterday sentenced independent journalist Jumaboy Tolibov to two years in a prison colony on charges of hooliganism, illegally entering a residence, and abusing his office as a local government administrator, according to local and international reports. The defense intends to appeal the verdict.

Nuriddin Karshiboyev, head of the National Association of Independent Media of Tajikistan (NANSMIT), told CPJ that his group believes the charges were fabricated as retaliation for three published commentaries last year in which Tolibov criticized Ayni district prosecutor Sabit Azamov. Karshiboyev called the imprisonment a blow to Tajik journalists’ right to investigate the record of public officials.

Marat Mamadshoyev, a NANSMIT correspondent who monitored the 13-day trial in Shahristan district court in the Sogd Region, said the verdict came in the face of contradictory witness statements. Mamadshoyev noted that several key witnesses who allegedly filed complaints against Tolibov were not present in court and instead submitted written testimony, NANSMIT reported.

Tolibov—who is also chairman of the legal department in Ayni’s local government—had investigated the performance of the local prosecutor’s office last year. During that inquiry, Tolibov alleged, Azamov assaulted him while he was seeking records.

Tolibov wrote three articles in late 2004 that criticized Azamov for the alleged attack. The articles also criticized local law enforcement officials for refusing to investigate his accusation, according to local press reports.

At Azamov’s direction, police detained Tolibov on April 24 in Dushanbe, NANSMIT reported. Prosecutors refused to provide any details of the charges for many weeks, citing an ongoing investigation, NANSMIT said. In early June, CPJ called on Tajik authorities to clarify the reasons for Tolibov’s detention or release him immediately. Read CPJ’s alert.

“Jumaboy Tolibov was held in custody for three months without due process and, even now, the circumstances surrounding his April detention and yesterday’s sentence remain unclear,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We are deeply concerned that prosecutors used their office to retaliate against someone who was investigating a matter of public interest.”