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Tajik Opposition Activist Odinaev Seeks EU Asylum After Being Released In Belarus

Farhod Odinaev says that he is currently in Germany.
Farhod Odinaev says that he is currently in Germany.

Tajik opposition activist and journalist Farhod Odinaev says he will seek political asylum in the European Union after learning the authorities intend to arrest him if he returns home.

Odinaev told RFE/RL by phone on November 10 that he was currently in Germany on a one-year visa after Belarusian authorities freed him last week and rejected a Tajik request to extradite him.

Odinaev added that before his arrest in Belarus, he did not know that Tajikistan was seeking his extradition and that he understands now how dangerous it would be for him to travel to post-Soviet republics.

Odinaev was detained by Belarusian migration officials on September 25 while on his way to the Polish capital, Warsaw, to attend a human rights conference.

Rights group Human Constanta in Belarus said in October that Odinaev risked torture or other ill-treatment if extradited to Tajikistan.

Odinaev, who holds Tajik and Russian passports, used to belong to the banned Islamic Renaissance Party (IRPT) and for several months in 2013 led Safo TV, an opposition television channel based in Moscow.

The channel was shut down by Russian authorities the same year.

The IRPT, long an influential party with representatives in the Tajik government and parliament, was labeled an extremist and terrorist group and banned in 2015 -- moves the party and human rights groups say were unjustified and politically motivated.

Dozens of IRPT officials and supporters have been prosecuted and many of them imprisoned, drawing further criticism of President Emomali Rahmon's government from rights groups.

Activists say Rahmon, who has ruled Tajikistan since 1992, has used the security forces and other levers of power to sideline opponents and suppress dissent.

Eleven international human rights groups had urged Belarusian authorities not to extradite Odinaev to Tajikistan.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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