DUSHANBE -- The Tajik Justice Ministry has banned the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) and given the only officially registered Islamic party in the former Soviet Union 10 days to halt all activities.
According to a statement issued by the ministry on August 28, the Islamic Renaissance Party cannot legally continue its activities because the Justice Ministry says the party does not have enough members to qualify as an officially registered party. The ministry said that all the party's branches in 58 cities and districts across Tajikistan have been closed.
The statement adds that the IRPT would not be able to hold a scheduled party congress and that a temporary headquarters set up in a private home in Dushanbe was illegal.
Party Chairman Muhiddin Kabiri, who has been outside Tajikistan since March, told RFE/RL on August 28 that the party's Supreme Political Council will discuss the situation in the nearest future and the results of that session will be made public.
In comments to RFE/RL, the party's deputy chairman, Saidumar Husaini, described the Justice Ministry's statement as "more pressure on the party by the authorities."
"That is a real threat to the IRPT's activities," Husaini said, adding that the move comes "despite the fact that political parties in the country can be banned only by the Supreme Court."
The Justice Ministry's announcement came a day after IRPT leaders told journalists in Dushanbe that the party would continue its political activities despite obstacles imposed by Tajik authorities, including the forced closure and sealing-off of its offices in the capital on August 24.
On August 27, Islamic Renaissance Party members and supporters were forced to relocate their planned press conference to a private residence in the capital after management at the Sheraton Dushanbe Hotel said they could not host the event, citing electricity problems.
Once reporters were gathered at the impromptu headquarters, the party leadership demanded that the government allow the Islamic Renaissance Party to reopen its official Dushanbe office, which they claimed had been closed to prevent a party congress from being held on September 11. The congress was intended to elect new party leaders.
The leadership called for the return of open political debate and suggested that Tajikistan's election system was not free or fair.
The IRPT played an important part in Tajikistan's devastating 1992-97 civil war, which left tens of thousands dead and over 1 million people displaced.
It was the only officially registered Islamic party in the former Soviet Union, and was represented in the Tajik parliament for 15 years until it failed in elections in March to meet the threshold for parliamentary representation.
The party challenged the official results of the polls, alleging fraud.
Kabiri's colleagues have urged him not to return to Tajikistan from abroad, saying it was not safe and citing the mysterious assassination of another opposition leader, fugitive tycoon and opposition Group 24 founder Umarali Quvatov, in Istanbul in March.
Some opponents of President Emomali Rahmon who live abroad have suggested that Quvatov's killing was orchestrated by Tajik authorities.
Rahmon, who has led Tajikistan since 1992, has been criticized for his authoritarian-style rule and for his country's poor human and civil rights records.