The appeal hearings for the journalist Khayrullo Mirsaidov began at the Sughd regional court in Khujand today.  Although the trial is open, nobody has been was allowed to attend the appeal hearings, except defense lawyers.

Relatives of Khayrullo Mirsaidov as well as representatives of the U.S. Embassy and the European Union Delegation to Tajikistan, public associations and media gathered outside the Sughd regional court building.  

Recall, the appeal hearings for Khayrullo Mirsaidov were adjourned on August 15 until August 22.  The clerk of the Sughd regional court said that the adjournment had been ordered because of one of three judges participating in the appeal hearing had participated in the court of first instance, and therefore, the Sughd regional court chamber had decided to replace him with another judge.  Bu the new judge should familiarize himself with the case materials, according to him.   .  

Khayrullo Mirsaidov was sentenced to 12 years in prison on July 11, 2018.  The sentence followed Mirsaidov’s conviction on charges of misappropriate of state funds, document forgery and false denunciation.  The court also imposed a 123,913 somoni fine. 

Mirsaidov maintained his innocence.  He, however, admitted that there were some shortcomings in the report on funds provided for the KVN team activities and he pleaded responsible for that.

UN human rights experts  condemned the sentence calling it a “clearly targeted measure against journalism and the public’s right to information.”  They said that Mirsaidov’s sentence demonstrates that “‘[the Tajik] authorities are cracking down on reporting of corruption, rather than on corruption itself.”

Mirsaidov is an independent journalist and a former correspondent of the Dushanbe-based Asia-Plus news agency and Germany's Deutsche Welle radio.

He is also the leader of the Khujand-based KVN comedy team, a stand-up comedy competition which originated among university students in the Soviet Union and is still popular in many post-Soviet states.

Mirsaidov’s case has drawn international attention.  Twelve human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), on August 13 called on diplomats and representatives of international organizations to press Tajik authorities “to unconditionally set aside the conviction against a respected journalist convicted on politically motivated charges.”  They also urged representatives of the diplomatic community to attend the appeal hearings.

The watchdogs noted that Mirsaidov’s conviction was in retaliation for his public allegations and criticism of corruption against local government officials in the Sughd province.