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Tajik Court Upholds Verdict Against Independent Weekly

DUSHANBE -- A Dushanbe court today upheld the verdict against the independent weekly newspaper "Paykon" (Arrowhead), RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

In October, Dushanbe's Firdausi district court found the weekly guilty of libel and ordered it to pay 300,000 somoni ($40,000) to the state corporation Tajikstandart, which monitors the quality of imported goods.

Last summer, "Paykon" printed an open letter from a group of Tajik businessmen to President Emomali Rahmon in which they accused Tajikstandart of corruption and hindering the development of trade in Tajikistan.

Tajikstandart's management then filed the libel lawsuit against the weekly.

"Paykon" editor in chief Jumaboy Tolibov told RFE/RL that the court's decision is politically motivated.

Nuriddin Qarshiboev, the chairman of Tajikistan's Association of Independent Media, called the verdict against "Paykon" an attack on press freedom. He predicted other papers might be targeted in the runup to the parliamentary elections scheduled for February 28.

Several independent periodicals were shut down on the eve of the last parliamentary elections in 2004.