Authorities ignore second Supreme Court order to free journalist

New York, December 9, 2005—Tajik authorities have ignored a second Supreme Court order to release jailed independent journalist Jumaboy Tolibov, according to a local CPJ legal source, who is monitoring the case.

The court ruled on October 11 and again on November 28 that Tolibov should be freed from a detention center in the town of Istarafshan in the northern region of Sogd. But the Prosecutor General’s Office in the capital Dushanbe has effectively blocked his release, the source said. Tolibov was jailed in April this year after criticizing a local prosecutor in three newspaper articles in 2004.

“The government’s flagrant disregard for the country’s highest judicial authority calls into question Tajikistan’s commitment to the rule of law,” said Ann Cooper, Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “Jumaboy Tolibov must be freed immediately.”

Under the Tajik Code of Criminal Procedure the Prosecutor General’s Office can suspend the implementation of a Supreme Court decision by filing an appeal, which it did after the October ruling. On November 28, the nine-member bench of the Supreme Court rejected that appeal and ordered Tolibov’s release, the National Association of Independent Media of Tajikistan (NANSMIT), a press freedom group, reported.

But officers at the Istarafshan detention unit have told Tolibov’s relatives that until they receive an official copy of the court’s decision in the regular mail the journalist will remain behind bars. On December 7, a legal adviser to Tolibov’s family told CPJ he sent a copy of the court decision to the detention center but authorities said they would wait for the post office to deliver the decision.

“To assert that the will of the Supreme Court is contingent upon the notoriously unreliable Tajik mail system would be laughable if the liberty of an innocent journalist were not at stake,” added Cooper.

Tolibov was arrested on April 24 in Dushanbe at the direction of Ayni district prosecutor Sabit Azamov. Tolibov, who is also chairman of the legal department in Ayni’s local government, wrote commentaries in the ruling party newspaper Minbar i Halq and the parliamentary newspaper Sadoi Mardum that were highly critical of the prosecutor’s office.