An expert who has worked in the penitentiary system for more than fifty years, say the decision of the Main Penitentiary Directorate of the Ministry of Justice to transport 128 prison inmates in three paddy wagons (prisoner transport vehicles), even if they are large vehicles, was wrong.  

“In my practice there were no cases when such a large number of prison inmates was transported from northern Tajikistan to Dushanbe in paddy wagons.  They were always transported by special train cars,” said the source, who wanted to remain unnamed.    

He further noted that the road from Khujand to Dushanbe takes not more than six hours, “if there was a serious need to transport prison inmates by paddy wagons, they could provide the prison inmates with hot meals in Khujand before transporting to Dushanbe,” said the source.  “Moreover, transportation of such a large number of prison inmates by paddy wagons creates a significant risk of flight.”   

Representatives of the Main Penitentiary Directorate have refused to comment on the expert’s opinion.   

Recall, fourteen prison inmates died of food poisoning while being transferring from the northern Sughd province to penal colonies in Dushanbe, Nurek and Yovon on July 7.   

A statement released by the Ministry of Justice says that during transportation, one of the prisoners shared three loafs of bread with another 16 inmates in the Maykhoura area of the Varzob district.  Those 16 prison inmates experienced nausea, dizziness, vomiting half an hour after consuming the bread.  Their health reportedly deteriorated when they arrived in Dushanbe.

Medical workers were able to save the lives of only two of the prisoners, according to the statement.  

The Prosecutor-General's Office has launched an investigation into the incident.