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Tajikistan arrests 23 leaders of banned opposition party

AFP , Tuesday 6 Oct 2015
Author Salman Rushdie
Author Salman Rushdie gestures during an interview with Reuters in central London, September 28, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)
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Ex-Soviet Tajikistan announced Tuesday it had arrested 23 leaders of the beleaguered Islamic opposition party the volatile Central Asian state has banned and branded a terrorist organisation.

Tajikistan's crackdown on the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) -- one of the few potential sources of genuine opposition to President Emomali Rakhmon's two-decade rule -- has been criticised by civil rights watchdogs and a range of other international actors.

The state prosecutor said in a statement that 23 members of the party were being held on charges including terrorism and organising a criminal group following deadly violence last month.

The country's supreme court last week accepted a request from the prosecutor to ban the IRPT, which was legally registered after a bloody five-year civil war in the 1990s that culminated in the victory of secular pro-government forces.

The supreme court also branded the party a terrorist organisation.

The Tajik government had already targeted the party prior to last month's allied mutiny spearheaded by the country's then-deputy defence minister, which left more than 40 dead.

Tajikistan accuses the IRPT of instructing General Abduhalim Nazarzoda, who died in a subsequent government military operation, to lead attacks on state forces in the capital Dushanbe and the provincial town of Vahdat in early September.

IRPT officials denied all links to the violence and refuted the government's claim that the late defence official was affiliated to the party.

Following the supreme court's decision, the state prosecutor said individuals who "remain in the party's ranks and propagate its ideas" will face criminal punishment.

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