Accessibility links

Breaking News


Khujand Prison in northern Tajikistan (file photo)

DUSHANBE -- The former warden of a prison in Tajikistan's northern city of Khujand has been handed a prison sentence over a deadly riot in November in which dozens of people were killed, a Tajik official has told RFE/RL on condition of anonymity.

An official at the Tajik State Penitentiary Directorate, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to talk publicly on the matter, told RFE/RL on June 7 that Faizullo Safarzod was found guilty of abuse of office and negligence and sentenced to four years in prison.

It is not clear when exactly the verdict and sentence were pronounced, as Tajik authorities have been reluctant to disclose any information related to the riot since it took place on November 7.

Safarzod's relatives and his lawyer refused to talk to RFE/RL.

Tajik authorities publicly acknowledged the riot two weeks after it broke out, saying that 23 inmates and two prison guards were killed when the riot was suppressed.

The Islamic State (IS) group said in a statement that the riot broke out after one of its "soldiers" detained there attacked a prison guard.

The penitentiary -- the high-security prison No. 3/3 -- largely houses inmates convicted on charges related to terrorism, extremism, and other serious crimes.

Last month, another prison riot in the Vahdat district, some 15 kilometers east of the capital, Dushanbe, claimed the lives of three prison guards and 29 inmates, including three opposition politicians.

Russian journalist Ivan Golunov is known for his investigations into official corruption. (file photo)

Russian investigative journalist Ivan Golunov, of the Latvia-based independent Meduza news site, has been detained in Moscow for allegedly attempting to sell illegal drugs, his lawyer and employer said, adding that he denies the allegations.

Golunov's lawyer, Dmitry Dzhulai, told Meduza that police detained his client on June 6 in downtown Moscow and later took out a bag that they claimed contained drugs from his backpack. Golunov denied that the bag belonged to him, Dzhulai said. Another bag and scales were allegedly found later in his apartment.

Dzhulai also said Golunov had been beaten by police and was prevented from calling his lawyer or relatives for several hours after he was detained.

Russian and international journalists and rights organizations rushed to defend Golunov, who has gained prominence for his investigations into alleged corruption among officials in Moscow and the surrounding region.

Natalia Zviagina, director of Amnesty International's office in Russia, said "the circumstances of Ivan Golunov's detention sound dubious and follow a depressingly familiar pattern.... Everything indicates that the authorities are planting drugs on their targets to shut them up with a jail sentence."

She also called for an immediate investigation into allegations Golunov was beaten while in custody.

Late on June 7, hundreds of people lined up outside the headquarters of the Moscow city police, taking turns to stand in front of the building and hold signs, one by one, in protest of Golunov's arrest.

Police briefly detained 11 people, many of them prominent journalists, including the well-known satirist Viktor Shenderovich, according to OVD-Info, a nongovernmental organization that monitors Russian police.

Police said tests revealed that the substance allegedly found in Golunov's backpack was the synthetic stimulant mephedrone. Golunov is now accused of the attempted distribution of illegal drugs, Dzhulai said, adding that his client is convinced that the drugs were planted.

Dzhulai said his request to take samples from Golunov's hands and fingernails for forensic tests was rejected by police.

Police also rejected a request by Golunov and his lawyer to call an ambulance to document injuries Golunov says he sustained from being beaten by police.

Moscow police issued a statement denying that Golunov had been beaten while in custody.

Meduza General Director Galina Timchenko and Editor in Chief Ivan Kolpakov issued a statement on June 7 demanding Golunov's release.

"We are confident that Ivan Golunov is not guilty," the Meduza statement said. "Moreover, we have every reason to believe that Golunov was targeted because of his journalistic activities. We know that in recent months he received threats. We know the reasons why he was threatened, and we have an idea from whom the threats came."

It adds that Meduza "will defend its journalist by all possible means."

Russia opposition politician and anti-corruption campaigner Aleksei Navalny said he has "no doubt" that Golunov's detention was politically motivated. Navalny said it was an attempt by Moscow authorities to silence the journalist ahead of regional elections in September.

Meduza was established in October 2014 and is run by journalists who resigned from their jobs at following Timchenko's unexpected removal from the post of's chief editor by the website's owner, Aleksandr Mamut.

Timchenko said then that the decision to base Meduza in the Latvian capital, Riga, was made because "right now, establishing an independent Russian-language media outlet in Latvia is possible, while in Russia it is not."

With reporting by Meduza, TASS, and Interfax

Load more

About This Blog

"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


Journalists In Trouble

RFE/RL journalists take risks, face threats, and make sacrifices every day in an effort to gather the news. Our "Journalists In Trouble" page recognizes their courage and conviction, and documents the high price that many have paid simply for doing their jobs. More