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Amnestied Tajik Commander Describes 'Good' Prison Conditions

Fathullo Khayriddinov

Fathullo Khayriddinov

A former Tajik opposition commander has described as "good" the conditions in the prison in Dushanbe where he served three years of a nine-year term prior to being amnestied last month, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Fathullo Khayriddinov, whose nom de guerre was Eshoni Daroz (“Tall Dervish Leader”), was one of the first Tajik opposition commanders who in 1997 recognized the peace agreement between the Tajik government and the United Tajik Opposition that ended the five-year civil war.

He accepted a post in the Tajik armed forces and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel.

But in 2007, Khayriddinov was charged with drug smuggling and other crimes and sentenced in 2008 to nine years in jail. Khayriddinov said he was amnestied twice: in 2009 his prison term was shortened, and in 2011 he was amnestied and released for good behavior.

Khayriddinov said the conditions in which he and other high-profile prisoners were kept were good. He said they had good food, clean cells, and running water.

Khayriddinov said Democratic Party of Tajikistan Chairman Mahmadruzi Iskandarov; General Begmatov, a former high-level commander in Tajikistan's Presidential Guard; and Abdujalil Homidov, former governor of the northern Sughd Province, were in the same prison and they met almost every day at lunch and dinner.

He said they had access to TV and radio and could order any local newspaper printed in Tajikistan.

Khayriddinov said that while in prison, Defense Minister Colonel-General Sherali Khayrulloev and top Interior Ministry officials met with them several times at the behest of the government to ask whether they had any complaints or requests.

When the civil war began in 1992, Khayriddinov was 17 years old and had just graduated from high school. His father was a member of the United Tajik Opposition who fled to Afghanistan when government forces advanced into his native Vahdat district 20 kilometers east of Dushanbe. Because of his father's membership in the Tajik opposition, troops loyal to the government burned down the family's home.

Later, Khayriddinov joined the opposition forces in Vahdat and the Nurobod district under the command of Abdullo Rahimov, aka Mullo Abdullo. Mullo Abdullo, who did not recognize the 1997 peace agreement, is currently considered the most dangerous militant in Tajikistan and an envoy of Al-Qaeda. Khayriddinov declined to comment about Mullo Abdullo.

Khayriddinov married in 1995 and has six children. He told RFE/RL he is currently ill, but when he recovers he plans to find work with a local company. A condition of the amnesty is that he must stay in Vahdat.