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Prison Visits Restricted In Tajikistan

Muhiddin Kabiri, leader of the Tajik Islamic Renaissance Party, shown here in 2006, was refused entry to a state prison.
DUSHANBE -- A top Tajik prison official says that only the country's president, as well as government and parliament members, can visit prisons and detention facilities without restrictions, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Bahrom Abdulhaqov, the deputy chief of Tajikistan's prisons and detention facilities, said that members of the Khatlon Provincial Council visited a prison and met with inmates earlier this spring.

But Hikmatulloh Saifullozoda, of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, said that party leader and parliamentarian Muhiddin Kabiri recently wanted to meet an imprisoned member of the party's presidium but was refused permission.

Payam Foroughi, a spokesperson for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's office in Dushanbe, said that all problems could be resolved if Tajikistan signed a "voluntary protocol against torture."

He added that in that case international organizations such as the Red Cross would have the opportunity to visit prison inmates.

Rahmatullo Zoirov, an expert on legal issues and the chief of Tajikistan's Social-Democratic Party, told RFE/RL that Tajikistan insists that there are no political prisoners in the country and that is why authorities restrict prison visits by international organizations, adding that the authorities are afraid that after meeting with those inmates international bodies will declare some of them as political prisoners.

Another analyst, Saifullo Safarov, told RFE/RL that even the Tajik ombudsman -- a recently created post -- has no right to visit prisons without a preliminary agreement.