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Tajik Women Suspected Of Links To Islamist Group Released

QURGHONTEPPA, Tajikistan -- Four Tajik women accused of belonging to the banned Islamic movement Jamaat at-Tabligh have been released from detention, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Sharofat Azizova, Dilfuza Hoshimova, Mavjuda Sattorova, and Zebuniso Pirkhonova were detained last year and accused of extremist activities and membership of the banned Islamic party Jamaat ut-Tabligh.

A General-Prosecutor's Office official in Qurghonteppa told RFE/RL on March 2 on condition of anonymity that the women have been amnestied and the criminal investigation into their activities was terminated.

The women, aged between 23 and 37 years, reside in the southern Khatlon Province.

A lawyer who is well-informed about the case told RFE/RL the same day that the authorities could not prove any connection between the four women and Jamaat ut-Tabligh or any other extremist organization.

But Tolibjon Azimov, a second official from the prosecutor's office in Qurghonteppa, told RFE/RL on March 2 that the detained women are suspected of distributing antigovernment leaflets on behalf of a banned Islamic movement and of attempting to create a religious movement called Masturot (an Arabic word meaning "hidden" or "closed").

Azimov suggested that Masturot could be the women's branch of Jamaat ut-Tabligh, which Tajikistan's Supreme Court banned five years ago.

Officials told RFE/RL the women's husbands are all serving prison terms for their membership of Jamaat ut-Tabligh.

Commenting on the women's releases, Tajik affairs expert Saidrahmon Nazriev noted that since the end of the military operation against insurgents in the eastern Rasht district in January, officials have softened their stance and cut the prison terms of 29 relatives and supporters of slain Emergency Situations Minister Mirzo Ziyoev, who had been sentenced for their alleged involvement in an antigovernment plot.

In addition, two other former opposition commanders had their jail terms commuted to house arrest.

Read more in Tajik here