Journalist still behind bars despite Supreme Court release order

New York, October 19, 2005—The Prosecutor General’s Office in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, is blocking the release of independent journalist Jumaboy Tolibov despite a Supreme Court ruling on October 11 setting him free, a local press freedom group said.

The National Association of Independent Media of Tajikistan (NANSMIT), a Dushanbe-based press freedom group which has been monitoring Tolibov’s case, said that Tolibov was being held in a detention center in the town of Istarafshan in the northern region of Sogd. Tolibov was jailed after criticizing a local prosecutor in three newspaper articles in 2004.

“We are outraged that the Prosecutor General has refused to release Jumaboy Tolibov despite the Supreme Court’s decision,” said Ann Cooper, Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “The fact that the Prosecutor General’s Office felt free to ignore Tajikistan’s highest court calls into question the country’s commitment to the rule of law.”

Under the Tajik Code of Criminal Procedure the Prosecutor General’s Office can suspend the implementation of a Supreme Court decision by filing a letter of appeal, NANSMIT, and a lawyer familiar with Tolibov’s case, told CPJ.

Sabbargun Kurbanova, spokesperson for the Prosecutor General’s Office, told CPJ the implementation of the Supreme Court’s decision had been suspended, “to check the rationale behind Tolibov’s release.”

The Prosecutor General’s Office has the right to suspend the decision for up to three months and file an appeal for the case to be retried. However, it announced only on Monday that it had entered a formal appeal. The announcement did not say when the appeal was filed. NANSMIT’s head, Nuriddin Karshiboyev, told CPJ that as of last Friday no appeal had been filed when NANSMIT checked with the Prosecutor General’s Office.

“Tolibov was illegally kept in detention for at least three days after the verdict,” Karshiboyev told CPJ. “Tolibov is completely isolated at the detention center in Istarafshan. Authorities keep relatives from seeing him,” the lawyer, who is in regular contact with Tolibov’s family told CPJ.

For details, see CPJ’s related alert of October 12.