A court in Dushanbe’s Shohmansour district sentenced freelance Tajik journalist Daler Sharifov to one year in prison on April 16.

The sentence followed his conviction on charges of inciting ethnic, racial, regional or religious enmity (Article 189 of Tajikistan’s Penal Code).  Sharifov will serve his term in a standard regime penal colony.  

Sharifov's lawyer, Abdurahmon Sharifov, said after the verdict that his client rejected the charges brought against him.

A prosecutor in the trial of Daler Sharifov asked the court on 15 to sentence Sharifov to jail term of two years and four months. 

The court, however, sentenced him to one year in prison.   

“The court took into consideration three consequences: it is Daler’s first offense; full confession; and the presence of young children,” Sharifov’s lawyer said.  

Sharifov's lawyer said that he called on the court to acquit his client, saying that the extremism charges against him were baseless.

According to him, Daler Sharifov refused to appeal. 

Sharifov’s trial was initially scheduled to begin on April 13, but the hearing was adjounrned until April 15 because the prosecutor was absent.

Sharifov's relatives, human rights organizations, and media-freedom groups have rejected the accusations brought against him as unfounded.

Daler Sharifov was summoned for questioning to the State Committee for National Security (SCNS) office in Dushanbe’s Shohmansour district on January 28 and he has not been seen since.

On January 29, Daler Sharifov was moved from the SCNS office in Dushanbe’s Shohmansour district to the SCNS head office.  

On January 30, a court in Dushanbe’s Ismoili Somoni district ruled that the journalist should remain in pre-trial custody for at least two months.

In a statement released on February 1, the Prosecutor-General’s Office of Tajikistan noted that Daler Sharifov is suspected of inciting religious enmity.

The statement, in particular, notes that during 2013-2019, a 32-year-old journalist Dalerjon Sharifov, a resident of the village of Niyogon in the Burun jamoat, which is subordinate to Vahdat Township, published more than 200 articles and commentaries of extremist nature aimed at inciting religious enmity in social networks.

In June 2019, Daler Sharifov published 100 copies of an unidentified text allegedly affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood movement in an underground printing house, according to the statement.

“In this connection, criminal proceedings were instituted against Sharifov under the provisions of Article 189 (1) – inciting racial, ethnic, regional or religious enmity,” the statement said.

The journalist’s father, Abdumannon Sharifov, denied the charges and said they were retaliation for his son’s writing, according to Fergana news agency.

Meanwhile, international media-freedom watchdogs have called extremism charges brought against the journalist “absurd.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released a statement on February 6, urging the Tajik authorities to immediately release journalist Daler Sharifov, drop all charges against him, and allow him to work unobstructed. 

“Tajikistan authorities should immediately drop the absurd charges against independent journalist Daler Sharifov, release him from custody, and allow him to continue his reporting,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator.  “Tajik officials have already driven nearly all independent voices out of the country, so this prosecution is a clear attempt to silence ahead of elections one of the few media critics that remain.”

In a statement released on April 11, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called Daler Sharifov’s arrest “a new warning by the authorities to critical journalists and media.”

“Daler Sharifov’s arrest ahead of the parliamentary elections in March, unsurprisingly won by the ruling party, and presidential elections in November, is a new warning by the authorities to critical journalists and media,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.  “We condemn these absurd charges and call for his immediate release.”

According Eurasianet, Daler Sharifov most recently worked for the independent news website Ozodagon, which was forced to close shop in 2019.  Most of the staff at the newspaper, including its founder Zafar Sufi, have reportedly sought asylum in Europe.  After Ozodagon folded, Sharifov remained in Dushanbe and continued to work freelance, writing about government campaigns to pressure women into refraining from wearing hijabs and other rights violations, according to Eurasianet.

Daler Sharifov had previously worked with Tajik national TV channel Safina as author and host of the program “Mushoirat” (Communicating).