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Jailed Former Tajik Warlord Threatens Hunger Strike

Former Tajik commander Ghaffor Mirzoev
Former Tajik commander Ghaffor Mirzoev
Correction appended

DUSHANBE -- The former head of Tajikistan's Presidential Guard and Drug Control Agency has threatened to go on hunger strike unless a commission reviews his case and convinces him his life sentence is justified, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Ghaffor Mirzoev's sister, Oisha Mirzoeva, told RFE/RL on October 11 that during a prison visit one week earlier Mirzoev told her he wants his verdict reviewed and access to his lawyer.

A commander of pro-government forces during Tajikistan's 1992-97 civil war*, Mirzoev subsequently held senior government posts prior to his arrest in August 2004.

He was charged on 93 counts of murder, tax evasion, illegal border crossing, and planning a coup.

Mirzoev pleaded not guilty to those charges but was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment in August 2006 after a trial that was held behind closed doors.

Mirzoev's lawyer, Buzurgmehr Yorov, told RFE/RL on October 12 that Mirzoev was charged with three murders, which is why he was ordered to serve the rest of his life in jail even though at the time of his arrest the country's Criminal Code did not include this sentencing option.

Tajik Supreme Court Deputy Chairwoman Basbi Mirzoeva (no relation to Mirzoev) told RFE/RL on October 12 that the court has not received any written request from Mirzoev.

She said he has the right to request a review of his sentence, and if he does so, the court will consider that request.

Several other former warlords from the country's civil war era had their jail terms reduced in an amnesty last month to mark the 20th anniversary of Tajikistan's independence.

* CORRECTION: This article has been amended to better describe Mirzoev's role as a warlord during the civil war, including commanding pro-government troops after 1992.

Read more in Tajik here and here