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Tajik Opposition Party Member Jailed For Election Fraud

Muhammadruzi Burhonov appears behind bars in a district court.

Muhammadruzi Burhonov appears behind bars in a district court.

DUSHANBE -- The Vakhsh district court in Tajikistan's southern Khatlon region today sentenced opposition party member Muhammadruzi Burhonov to one year in prison for election violations during the February 28 parliamentary vote, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Burhonov is a member of the opposition Islamic Renaissance Party, and also a member of the local electoral commission.

Judge Anvar Qurbonov told RFE/RL that Burhonov was found guilty of voting on behalf of members of his family. He said six ballot papers filled out by Burhonov were confiscated.

Burhonov's lawyer Abdurahmon Turaev admitted that Burhonov had voted for his elderly father and his wife and daughter, who were sick. But Turaev added that Burhonov had obtained permission to do so from the local electoral commission head.

Turaev said he had expected the court to hand down a suspended sentence. He said he is now considering asking a higher court to reconsider the verdict.

The Islamic Renaissance Party, the largest opposition party in the country, described the verdict as "made-to-order." Party first deputy chairman Saidumar Husayni, who is a member of the Tajik parliament, told RFE/RL the charges against Burhonov were not proven in court and he was sentenced unfairly.

According to the official results of the February election, the Islamic Renaissance Party received 7.5 percent of the vote. Its leaders say the real figure is more than 30 percent. They claim the ruling People's Democratic Party of President Emomali Rahmon rigged the results to secure victory.

Burhonov said after his trial that it was the first trial on such charges, and he hopes it will be the last.

Burhonov is the first person in 18 years to be jailed for election fraud in Tajikistan.