Doniyor Nabiev was just trying to help people in need. The 80-year-old man from the Rudaki region of Tajikistan had been sharing his retirement savings with the local families of political prisoners. Over several years he had passed on between $15-$30 monthly to the impoverished relatives of jailed members of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, an opposition party the Tajik government banned in 2015 and declared a terrorist organization without credible evidence. Nabiev is a former IRPT member, so he knew those in jail. He had also twice received small funds from foreign-based relatives of political prisoners, which he transferred to the prisoners to help with food.
For these simple acts, the Tajik police detained Nabiev on August 27, 2020 and accused him of illegal activities on behalf of the banned IRPT. In particular, the police charged him with receiving money from “special services of certain countries” for the promotion of extremism and with the transfer of funds to an alleged military wing of the IRPT hiding out in Afghanistan. On December 28, 2020, a court found Nabiev guilty of “organizing activities of an extremist organization” and sentenced him to seven years in prison.
There are serious concerns about whether Nabiev, who according to a person close to his family, has tuberculosis, will survive his prison term. There have been reports of outbreaks of Covid-19 in Tajik prisons. The World Health Organisation has urged governments to release older and vulnerable prisoners during the pandemic.
Nabiev’s is the latest victim of politically motivated arrests and imprisonments since the onset of the current human rights crisis seven years ago. His case shows the lengths the Tajik authorities are willing to go in their repression of political opponents. In the weeks since the court decision hundreds of social media users have expressed their dismay and called for authorities to release Nabiev, or at least change the terms of his sentence. Nabiev’s family is currently appealing the case.
Nabiev should not be in jail for the kindness he showed people in need. He should be released immediately; as a start, given the serious risks to his health in prison, the authorities should release him on humanitarian grounds.