Human rights lawyer Abdulmachid Rizoyev, imprisoned since June 2021 for posting humorous comments on Facebook, has not been able to see any of his lawyers since 11 August 2021 and since 4 September his family has not been permitted to visit him. International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) is concerned that the lack of contact with the outside world significantly increases the risk that he will be subjected to torture or other forms of ill-treatment. Abdulmachid Rizoyev has been imprisoned to punish him for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and he should be released immediately and unconditionally.
On 14 June 2021, Shokhmansur District Court of Dushanbe sentenced Rizoyev to five and a half years’ imprisonment in a high security prison after finding him guilty of “public calls to carry out extremist activity through the media or the internet” (Article 307 of the Criminal Code). In July, one of Rizoyev’s lawyers filed a complaint with the Cassation Instance of Dushanbe City Court urging the court to annul the verdict and close the case against the human rights lawyer, but the court did not satisfy the complaint. In September 2021, his term was reduced to three years’ imprisonment under an amnesty law marking the 30th anniversary of Tajikistan’s independence.
The charges against Abdulmachid Rizoyev were based on a number of posts he had made on Facebook, which the prosecutor claimed were “hidden calls for extremism”, although they did not feature any kind of reference to violence. For example, the prosecutor found “hidden extremist” content, in one post where Rizoyev wrote that “A wise government fights the roots of protests, an ignorant government fights the protesters.” The following post was also deemed to represent a call for extremism: “We, Tajikistanis, come in the third category here: 1) The people have to live well. 2) The people have to live. 3) The people have to.”[i]
In court, Rizoyev maintained his innocence and stated that he had never held or promoted extremist views. IPHR is concerned that the criminal case was fabricated to punish him for his professional work defending the rights of Dushanbe residents whose homes were due to be demolished to make way for new construction projects. Previously he also provided legal assistance to military conscripts and soldiers subjected to abuse.