The Supreme Court of Austria has invalidated an extradition order for Tajik opposition activist Hizbullo Shovalizoda, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison on extremism charges his supporters reject after his arrival to Dushanbe from Vienna earlier this year, according to Radio Liberty.

Shovalizoda's lawyer in Vienna, Gregor Klammer, told RFE/RL that the court ruled that a decision by Austrian authorities to reject Shovalizoda’s request for asylum and extradite him to Tajikistan was illegal.

RFE/RL says that according to the court’s ruling, Austria failed to secure the Tajik national's right to freely leave the country.  It reportedly added that the decision on his extradition was based on outdated information about the current situation in Tajikistan.

Klammer added that the Supreme Court obliged Austria to bring his client back to Vienna, RFE/RL notes.

Shovalizoda is currently being held in a Tajik prison and authorities have not commented on the Austrian court decision, according to RFE/RL.

Recall, Hizbullo Shovalizoda, who was extradited from Austria in March, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on extremism charges in June.  The sentence followed his conviction on charges of participating in the activities of an extremist organization and high treason.

Austria extradited the 29-year-old native of Jomi district of Khatlon province, Hizbullo Shovalizoda, to Dushanbe on March 5. 

According to a statement released by the Prosecutor-General’s Office of Tajikistan in March, Hizbullo Shovalizoda is an active member of the banned Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT).  He was charged with high treason (Article 305 of Tajikistan’s Penal Code) and participation in an extremist organization (Article 307 of Tajikistan’s Penal Code).

Shovalizoda reportedly joined the IRPT in 2016 when he was working as labor migrant in the Russian Federation.  Shovalizoda has taken a terrorism training course in one of foreign countries, said the statement.

The IRPT was labeled a terrorist group and banned in in Tajikistan in 2015.

The Prosecutor-General’s Office notes that IRPT members A. Kuzov, N. Zabichoyev, A. Rizvonov, D. Ismoilov, M. Navrouzov and some others, who were detained in Tajikistan during 2016-2019, “have given evidence about Shovalizoda’s involvement in the mentioned crimes.”

The Prosecutor-General’s Office stresses that abovementioned persons have taken a military sabotage training outside the country and illegally crossed into Tajikistan for the purpose of committing terrorist acts.

“Earlier, Tajik nationals Loiq Sherali, Mustafo Hayotov and Komron Zuhurov wanted by Tajik law enforcement authorities for participation in terrorist organization were extradited from the European Union to Tajikistan under support of the EU competent bodies,” the statement noted.    

Tajik opposition activists in exile in February urged Austria not to extradite Hizbullo Shovalizoda to Dushanbe.

Vaisaiddin Odinayev, a Tajik political activist abroad, told Radio Liberty on February 27 that Shovalizoda arrived in Austria a year ago, but was not granted asylum as he sought but instead was placed under arrest on January 22.

According to Odinayev, although Shovalizoda is not a member of any political party, he used to be a supporter of the United Tajik Opposition and openly supports the National Alliance of Tajikistan, which unites several Tajik opposition political parties and movements in exile.

Odinayev also said that Shovalizoda was arrested in Austria at the request of Tajik officials, who allege he is involved in extremist activities.

In October last year, Tajikistan's Supreme Court labeled the National Alliance of Tajikistan as a terrorist and extremist organization.