27 Nov 2017 13:54

Tajik heart surgeon gets 5.5 years for attending pilaf meetings organized by Salafis

DUSHANBE. Nov 27 (Interfax) - Abdumalik Salomov, a prominent Tajik heart surgeon, has been sentenced to 5.5 years in prison on charges of involvement in a prohibited religious group called Salafiyah, local media reported on Monday, citing the court of the city of Khujand, an administrative center in the country's northern Sughd region.

Salomov is a 41-year-old graduate of the Tajik Medical University. He worked for a long time at the Moscow-based Bakoulev Scientific Center for Cardiovascular Surgery and the Vishnevsky Central Military Clinical Hospital. He earned his PhD in Moscow. Salomov was invited to work at the Sughd center in 2017. He was detained in late September.

The court found Salomov guilty of "participation in the activities of extremist associations or other organizations banned by courts, and assisting them using the mass media, the Internet, or other methods."

His two associates, Ilhom Gafforov (Salomov's classmate) and Saydullo Mirzoyev (the doctor's friend), were also found guilty of the same crime and received five years in jail.

The men will serve their sentences at high-security colonies. The sentence has not taken legal effect yet.

A source at the regional prosecutor's office confirmed Salomov's arrest. "Abdumalik Salomov is suspected of having links to members of the Salafiyah movement, which is banned in Tajikistan. He regularly took part in the so-called 'mahfili palav,' or meetings at which pilaf is served, organized by Salafis in Sughd," the source told media outlets.

Salomov's relatives asked Tajik President Emomali Rahmon for assistance in October.

"They are asking the president to assist a fair investigation into the doctor's case by the investigative bodies. They do not believe in his involvement in an extremist organization," local media reported.

Bakhtiyor Vokhidov, a lawyer for Salomov, said the doctor denies being involved in extremist movements. "He says he has no relation to any of the illegal groups, has not committed any crimes, and does not know on what grounds he has been detained," the lawyer said.