Resident of the northern Sughd province has been jailed for membership in an ultraconservative Islamic Salafist movement.

A court in the Bobojonghafourov district sentenced local resident to Sharif Ochilov to five years in prison on May 3.  The sentence followed his conviction on charges of participating in an extremist group (Article 307’ (2) of Tajikistan’s Penal Code).

Judge Boirjon Zoirzoda, who presided over the trial, says Ochilov will serve his term in a general regime penal colony.  

According to him, Ochilov was arrested in February 2017.  The investigation has reportedly established that he joined the Salafist movement in 2014 and he was disseminating the group’s ideas among the population.  

The Salafi movement or Salafist movement is an ultra-conservative orthodox movement within Sunni Islam that references the doctrine known as Salafism.  The movement first appeared in Tajikistan in the early 2000s, having been brought back to the country by Tajiks that had taken refuge in Pakistan during the civil war.

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

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.

The overwhelming majority of Tajiks are followers of the Hanafi madhab, a more liberal branch of Sunni Islam.