KHUJAND, June 18, 2015, Asia-Plus -- Thirteen residents of the northern province of Sughd have been convicted of being members of the outlawed Salafi group.

A court in the Bobojonghafourov district sentenced five people to two years in prison each on June 17.  Besides, eight other people were fined 60,000 somoni each.     

A source at the Bobojonghafourov district court says the sentence followed their conviction on charges of being member of the outlawed Salafi group, organizing activities of an extremist group and inciting ethnic, racial, regional or religious enmity.

All of them are residents the Bobojonghafourov district and the city of Khujand aged 20 to 30 years

They were reportedly detained in February this year.

We will recall that The Tajik authorities banned Salafism as an illegal group on January 8, 2009, saying the Salafi movement represents a potential threat to national security and the Supreme Court added Salafists to its list of religious groups prohibited from operating in the country.

The movement claims to follow a strict and pure form of Islam, but Tajik clerics say the Salafists’ radical stance is similar to that of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Salafists do not recognize other branches of Islam, such as Shi''a and Sufism.  The movement is frequently referred to as Wahhabism, although Salafists reject this as derogatory.

The overwhelming majority of Tajiks are followers of Hanafia, a more liberal branch of Sunni Islam.

On December 8, 2014, the Supreme Court of Tajikistan formally labeled the banned Salafi group as an extremist organization.  The ruling reportedly followed a request submitted to the court by the Prosecutor-General’s Office.  The ruling means that the group’s website and printed materials are also banned.