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Tajik Amnesty To Include Some Opposition Fighters

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon

DUSHANBE -- Tajik President Emomali Rahmon has sent a proposal to parliament that would grant an amnesty for up to 8,000 prisoners, including some former United Tajik Opposition (UTO) fighters, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

The proposed amnesty was submitted to the lower chamber of parliament on July 27 to mark the 20th anniversary of Tajikistan's declaration of independence, which is on September 9.

Prisoners eligible for release include those who are disabled, World War II veterans, military deserters, convicts over 55, and those suffering from cancer or other serious illnesses.

People sentenced for economic crimes may be released if they have repaid the financial losses they caused.

The draft law proposes the release of former rebels who fought government troops in 1997-98, and of religious radicals belonging to different banned Islamic groups.

In 1997-98, followers of renegade Colonel Mahmoud Khudoyberdiev rejected the conditions of the peace agreement with the UTO that ended the 1992-1997 civil war and turned their weapons against government forces. Following two failed rebellions, Khudoyberdiev and his followers took refuge in Uzbekistan.

The amnesty will extend to members of banned Islamic groups and political parties who were imprisoned for up to five years or have served three-quarters of their terms -- except for those found guilty of murder, terrorism, or other serious crimes.

In addition to those released from jail or pretrial detention, thousands more may have their prison terms cut or their suspended sentences annulled.

According to unofficial estimates, there are currently 13,000 people imprisoned in Tajikistan.

There have been 11 amnesties in Tajikistan over the past 20 years. Under the most recent, in November 2009, some 10,000 prisoners were released.

Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan Deputy Chairman Saidumar Husayni, a member of the lower house of parliament, said today his party does not expect this amnesty to differ greatly from previous ones.

He said the government is ready to free some of Khudoyberdiev's men from 1997-98, but added that some 300 former opposition fighters who should have been released after the peace agreement was signed are still in prison.

But Husanyi said there is no indication that they, too, will now be released.