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HRW asks Tajikistan to free journalist held for crime 'committed at age 6'

AFP , Tuesday 1 Sep 2015
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Human Rights Watch on Tuesday urged ex-Soviet Tajikistan to free an independent journalist after he was jailed for two years for allegedly forging his birth certificate when he was just six.

Tajikistan sentenced Amindzhon Gulmurodzoda on August 18. The 33-year-old works for the Centre for Investigative Journalism, a Western-funded non-profit organisation that defends the rights of journalists, and edits the independent news site faraj.com.tj.

Tajikistan's security services claimed Gulmurodzoda submitted a birth certificate with the wrong date of birth while applying for a passport in 1989, when he was six.

His father, who is dead, was also charged with the crime.

"Bringing dubious charges against a critical journalist for actions allegedly carried out as a child is a thin smokescreen for a blatant and politically motivated assault on free speech," said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

The ruling is "yet another example of the crackdown on free speech and independent voices" in the authoritarian Central Asian state, the watchdog said.

The journalist had no previous problems with the government according to the National Association of Independent Media of Tajikistan, a professional association.

International rights groups have regularly lambasted Tajikistan's government for blocking online media and social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube.

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