25 Feb 2019 11:35

Human rights defenders accuse Moscow of extrajudicial extradition of Tajik opposition activist to Dushanbe

MOSCOW. Feb 25 (Interfax) - Four international human rights organizations have accused Russia and Tajikistan of unlawfully detaining Sharofiddin Gadoev, a Tajik opposition leader and former head of the Group 24 opposition political movement, and forcibly returning him to Tajikistan.

Gadoev flew from Amsterdam to Moscow on February 13 with a round-trip ticket for meetings with Russian Security Council officials "regarding political developments in Tajikistan," the Association of Central Asian Migrants, Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, Human Rights Watch (HRW), and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee said in a joint statement available on the HRW website.

"Sources investigating the case say that on the afternoon of February 14, Russian security services officials met him at his hotel to drive him to a meeting," the statement says.

"Russian security services officers in a second car stopped Gadoev's car, forced Gadoev into their car, and drove him to Moscow's Domodedovo airport. Relatives told Human Rights Watch that the officers beat Gadoev in the car," the statement says.

"The Russian officers, avoiding passport control, placed Gadoev on Somon Air, Flight 1223 to Dushanbe. [...] On the flight, Gadoev was accompanied by officers from Tajikistan security services, who beat him and placed a sack over his head. Gadoev was delivered in that condition straight to Tajikistan's Interior Ministry's agency for the fight against organized crime early on the morning of February 15," it says.

The authors of the statement warn that Tajik authorities may have ill-treated Gadoev. "Tajikistan's international partners, including diplomatic representatives on the ground, should seek access to visit with Gadoev and call on the Tajik government to provide him with unimpeded access to an attorney of his choice and visits with family members," the statement says.

"Russia is a member of the Council of Europe and party to the European Convention on Human Rights, and any involvement of, or acquiescence by, state agents in the extrajudicial transfer of Gadoev to Tajikistan is a serious violation of the convention, it says.

The Tajik Interior Ministry had earlier posted Gadoev's video address on its website, in which he said he had returned home of his own free will. However, the opposition National Alliance of Tajikistan posted a pre-recorded video in which Gadoev says that, if he suddenly turns up in Tajikistan or appears on Tajik television saying he regretted his actions, or if the authorities claim that he returned home voluntarily, this would mean he was abducted and forcibly brought to Tajikistan.

Gadoev led Group 24 in 2015-2016, after its founder, Umarali Kuvvatov, had been killed in Istanbul. Group 24, which is comprised of Tajik opposition members in exile, is banned in Tajikistan as an extremist organization.