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Tajikistan's Sole Private University Files Lawsuit Against Education Minister

Tajik Education Minister Abdujabor Rahmonov
DUSHANBE -- Tajikistan's only private university is suing the country's education minister for defamation, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Sadriddin Akramov, the head of the Institute of Technical Innovations and Communications (ITIC), told RFE/RL today that it filed a lawsuit against Education Minister Abdujabor Rahmonov on July 31 in a Dushanbe district court.

Akramov said Rahmonov described the ITIC in a letter to Tajik President Emomali Rahmon as a hotbed of antigovernment propaganda and political opposition.

The ITIC is known as the "American" university because it was founded by a Tajik-born U.S. citizen and is funded by grants from the United States and other Western countries. It has been under pressure from the Education Ministry to change its name since 2003, something it has done a few times.

In September 2009, the Education Ministry demanded its closure for three months for "technical reasons" to enable the ministry to check its documents and activities. But Akramov appealed to the district court last year and chose to keep the university open pending a court ruling.

Rahmonov said at a press conference last month that the Economic Court had upheld all the ministry's complaints. He said the court ruled that the ITIC should be closed and its students continue their studies at other universities.

Akramov has demanded the Education Ministry compensate the ITIC for moral and material damage incurred as a result of the Economic Court ruling.

Akramov told RFE/RL he is convinced that the real reason the Education Ministry revoked the ITIC's license is because its teaching staff includes some prominent opposition leaders and outspoken critics of the government.

A U.S. diplomat who has followed the case told RFE/RL on condition of anonymity on August 2 that he, too, thinks that is the reason the ministry has moved to close down the ITIC. He noted that the ministry has not yet provided any other convincing arguments for doing so.

Despite the ongoing dispute, 300 would-be students submitted applications to the ITIC this year.

One prospective student told RFE/RL that she appreciates the "high standard" of internationally focused education that is guaranteed at the institute and that she is sure it will not be permanently closed down.