Tajikistan must release reporters

New York, October 13, 2011–As a court in Tajikistan prepares to issue verdicts in the politicized criminal prosecutions of BBC correspondent Urinboy Usmonov, and Makhmadyusuf Ismoilov, a reporter with the independent weekly Nuri Zindagi, the Committee to Protect Journalists is demanding justice.

“We call on authorities to drop the trumped-up criminal charges against Urinboy Usmonov and Makhmadyusuf Ismoilov in northern Tajikistan and release them immediately and unconditionally,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “Both journalists are being punished for nothing other than their independent reporting on issues of public interest.”

Usmonov is charged with extremism, while Ismoilov faces defamation, insult and extortion charges.  All charges have been fabricated, CPJ research shows. If convicted on Friday, Usmonov faces up to five years in prison while Ismoilov could be sentenced to up to 16 years.