A court in Tajikistan has rejected an appeal filed by journalist Khurshed Fozilov against a seven-year prison sentence he was handed in May on charge of involvement in the activities of unspecified banned groups.
Tajikistan’s Supreme Court said on August 14 that a court in the northern region of Sughd upheld the sentence, while Fozilov’s lawyers had asked to annul the verdict and the conviction of their client.
Fozilov has maintained his innocence since he was arrested in early March.
The 37-year-old father of three is a freelance journalist who has cooperated with several independent media outlets, including the independent website Akhbor, which is based outside the country.
He often covered social issues and problems faced by ordinary people in Sughd and was critical of the local government. He has been active on social media networks as well.
Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, who has run the Central Asian nation for almost 30 years, has been criticized by international human rights groups over his administration’s alleged disregard for independent media, religious freedoms, civil society, and political pluralism in the tightly controlled former Soviet republic.
Last year, Tajik courts sentenced seven journalists and bloggers to prison terms ranging from seven years to 21 years on charges of spreading false information, involvement into activities of extremist groups, and cooperation with banned organizations. The journalists, their supporters, and human rights groups have called the charges trumped up and politically motivated.
International human rights groups, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and governments of the United States and the European Union have called on the Tajik government to drop all charges against the journalists and release them.
Tajikistan was ranked 152nd in Reporters Without Borders’ 2022 World Press Freedom Index, and designated “Not Free” in Freedom House’s 2022 Global Freedom Status.