Journalist Khushruz Jumayev has been detained since May 2022, when he was arrested following the outbreak of mass protests in Tajikistan’s eastern Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region. As of late September 2022, he remains on trial on charges of membership in a “criminal group” that authorities accuse of organizing the protests.
Jumayev, who uses the pen name Khushom Gulyam, is an independent journalist and blogger from Tajikistan’s Pamiri ethnic minority who lives in Gorno-Badakhshan, and he also runs the Pamiri culture and current affairs website Pomere.info, which critically covered government actions during earlier unrest in Gorno-Badakhshan in November 2021, according to CPJ’s review of archived versions of the website. He collaborated on several local cultural, linguistic, and media projects in Gorno-Badakhshan with jailed Pamiri journalist and human rights defender Ulfatkhonim Mamadshoeva, who has been accused by Tajik authorities of organizing the May unrest.
Following the eruption of protests in Gorno-Badakhshan in mid-May 2022, Tajikistan authorities launched an “anti-terrorism” operation in the region, which reportedly resulted in in at least 34 deaths and hundreds of arrests among the local population. Authorities have sought to suppress independent reporting on the protests and the government operation, as CPJ has documented.
On May 18, 2022, Tajikistan’s security services arrested Mamadshoeva on accusations of organizing the unrest. The following day, officers with the Interior Ministry’s Department for Combating Organized Crime arrested Jumayev at his home in Dushanbe, news reports stated. A source familiar with Jumayev’s case told CPJ on condition of anonymity, due to fear of reprisal, that the 24-year-old journalist’s parents searched for him at various government offices for five days before authorities called them to say he was in detention at Department for Combating Organized Crime headquarters.
A friend of Jumayev told CPJ on condition of anonymity, also fearing reprisal, that the journalist told him after Mamadshoeva’s arrest that he feared detention, but that he had not done anything unlawful.
On May 23, a court remanded Jumayev in custody for two months pending investigation on unconfirmed charges, the source said. CPJ was unable to determine if the remand was officially extended. The source familiar with Jumayev’s case told CPJ that authorities classified the cases against him as secret and made his lawyer sign a nondisclosure agreement, so neither the media nor the journalist’s family have received reliable information about the case against him.
As of late September 2022, authorities had not made any public statements on the reasons for Jumayev’s arrest, several local journalists told CPJ on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisal.
Authorities have charged Mamadshoeva under eight articles of the criminal code, including leading “part of a criminal group,” according to news reports by Radio Ozodi. The source familiar with Jumayev’s case told CPJ authorities have charged him with membership in a criminal group, subject to between eight and 12 years in prison under Article 187, Part 2, of the criminal code of Tajikistan.
On September 20, the closed-door trial of Jumayev, Mamadshoeva, and around 30 other individuals accused of organizing the Gorno-Badakhshan protests started in the State Committee for National Security’s pretrial detention center in Dushanbe, that source told CPJ. As of early December, Jumayev remained detained at that center and the trial was continuing, they said, adding that prosecutors had demanded a 10-year sentence for the journalist.
Close acquaintances of Jumayev told CPJ on condition of anonymity that he had recently suffered from pleurisy, a type of chest pain, and they were concerned for his well-being in detention. CPJ was unable to establish the journalist’s health status in detention.
CPJ emailed the prosecutor general’s office and the Interior Ministry of Tajikistan about Jumayev’s case but did not receive any replies.