Radio Liberty’s Tajik Service, known locally as Radio Ozodi, reported on February 1 that the second court hearing in the case of entrepreneur Abdukhalil Kholiqzoda, writer Abduqodir Rustam and director of the Er-Graph publishing house Suhrob Rajabzoda took place in the pretrial detention facility on January 26.  As the first court hearing, the second court hearing was also held behind closed doors, according to Radio Ozodi.  

A source, who is knowledgeable about the details of this process, told Radio Ozodi that along with “the incitement of social, ethnic, regional and religious enmity” the charge of “fraud” was brought against Kholiqzoda.   

“The investigation allegedly established that when importing some medical equipment into the Ibni Sino private medical clinic, he underestimated its value.   Although his relatives had long ago resolved this issue and paid the fine,” the source noted. 

Radio Ozodi reports that there is no official information from the authorities on this issue and contacts of relatives of detainees are also unavailable.  

Meanwhile, another interlocutor of Radio Ozodi said that this information may not be accurate.   “In order to file a new charge, the court must remand the case for retrial.  Most likely, this charge was included in the indictment from the very beginning,” he said.  

During the second court hearing, witnesses from government agencies, including the Ministry of Justice, were questioned.  

“Criminal proceedings have been instituted against Abduqodir Rustam under the provisions of Article 189 (2) of Tajikistan’s Penal Code – incitement of racial, ethnic, regional or religious enmity, while against  Suhrob Rajabzoda another article of Tajikistan’s Penal code has been used,” one of Radio Ozodi interlocutors said on the basis of anonymity.  

He did not mention what specific charges were brought against Suhrob Rajabzoda.  

Recall the trial began at the Supreme Court on January 19 following the publication of scandalous book, titled “Events of My Life”, written by Abdukhalil Kholiqzoda, edited by Abduqodir Rustam and printed in Suhrob Rajabzoda’s publishing house.    

Recall, Prosecutor-General Yusuf Rahmon told reporters in Dushanbe on August 14 last year that he had ordered the arrest of Abdukhalil Kholiqzoda.

Rahmon explained that the arrest had been triggered by the contents of “Events of My Life”, written by Kholiqzoda and published in March last year.

The Tajik chief prosecutor accused Kholiqzoda of seeking to sow hatred among residents of Tajikistan’s regions.

As suggested in the book title, Abdukhalil Kholiqzoda, who is best known in Tajikistan as the founder of the Ibni Sino private medical clinic, shares stories from his career.

Eurasianet reported on September 8 last year that elsewhere, the author drifts into highly subjective commentaries, in part about the mindset of Tajiks from various parts of the country.  He reportedly reserves special criticism for inhabitants of the south, “where much of the current ruling elite comes from, for what he perceives as their lack of refinement.”

Kholiqzoda reportedly has much to say about the economic climate in Tajikistan too.  According to Eurasianet, he bemoans the poor state of affairs for business, the lack of foreign investment and the woeful state of the healthcare sector.

He reportedly writes in his book of his sincere friendship with the heads of both the State Committee for National Security (SCNS) and the Interior Ministry, noting that some of the accounts he shares came from their own lips.  

Eurasianet notes that while the SCNS and the police get an easy ride in the book, the author has less kind things to say about prosecutors.  In one passage, he reportedly alleges that an intermediary acting on behalf of the mayor of Panjakent, a city in the northern province of Sughd, paid a large bribe to the General Prosecutor’s Office to get it to refrain from opening a criminal case against him.

What is particularly intriguing about this hazily substantiated accusation is that Kholiqzoda alleges that the cash was used to fund a lavish wedding.

Abdukhalil Kholiqzoda was detained on August 7 and the well-known writer Abduqodir Rustam, who has edited the scandalous book, was detained in late August. 

Eurasianet says people familiar with the investigation have said it is believed Abduqodir Rustam was the person responsible for including the claim about the Panjakent bribe.

In August, the authorities withdrew the entire circulation of the book from all bookstores.