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Tajikistan Urged To Release 'Seriously Ill' Activist Who Says Guards Beat Him

Muhammadali Hayit in April 2007
Muhammadali Hayit in April 2007

Human Rights Watch and eight other rights groups have urged the Tajik government to immediately release a gravely ill political activist who claims to have been tortured.

During a visit on March 9, Muhammadali Hayit showed his wife "injuries on his forehead and stomach that he said were caused by beatings from prison officials to punish him for refusing to record videos denouncing Tajik opposition figures abroad," the groups said in a March 20 statement.

The statement quoted Savrinisso Jurabekova as saying her husband had told her that "he was not getting adequate medical care, and they both fear he may die in prison as a result of the beatings."

Hayit, 62, was arrested in September 2015 on what human rights activists called politically motivated charges and sentenced to life in prison in June 2016 following a closed trial.

He had been deputy head of the banned Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT).

The political activist is currently being held at a detention center in the capital, Dushanbe.

"We ask diplomatic representatives on the ground in Dushanbe to seek permission to visit Hayit and other prisoners of concern and press for their immediate release," according to Nadejda Atayeva, president of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia.

Marius Fossum, Central Asia representative of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, said that Tajikistan's human rights situation "has been spiraling downward rapidly, and Washington, Brussels, and all actors should consider enacting targeted punitive measures unless immediate human rights improvements are made."

The other groups are the Association for Central Asian Migrants, Freedom House, Freedom Now, Global Advocates, Human Rights Vision Foundation, and International Partnership for Human Rights.

The IRPT, long an influential party with representatives in the government and parliament of Tajikistan, was labeled a terrorist group and banned in 2015.

Dozens of IRPT officials and supporters have been prosecuted and many of them imprisoned, drawing criticism from human rights groups.

The party's founder, Umarali Quvatov, was assassinated in Istanbul in March 2015.

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