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Tajik Opposition In Exile Urges Austrian Authorities Not To Extradite Asylum Seeker

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Tajik opposition activists in exile have urged Austria not to extradite a Tajik citizen to Dushanbe, where they say he will face torture and an unfair trial.

Vaisaiddin Odinaev, a Tajik political activist abroad, told RFE/RL on February 27 that 29-year old Hizbullo Shovalizoda arrived in Austria a year ago, but was not granted asylum as he sought but instead was placed under arrest on January 22.

According to Odinaev, although Shovalizoda is not a member of any political party, he used to be a supporter of the United Tajik opposition and openly supports the National Alliance of Tajikistan (PMT), which unites several Tajik opposition political parties and movements in exile.

Odinaev also said that Shovalizoda was arrested in Austria at the request of Tajik officials, who allege he is involved in extremist activities. His deportation is scheduled for March 4.

Tajik authorities would neither confirm nor reject the information.

In October, Tajikistan's Supreme Court labeled PMT as a terrorist and extremist organization.

The PMT was established in Warsaw in September 2018 at a gathering of Tajik opposition activists living in various countries of the European Union.

Tajik authorities have been criticized for cracking down on dissent for years.

In 2014, the opposition movement Group 24 was labeled as terrorist and extremist and banned. In March 2015, the movement's founder, Umarali Quvatov, was assassinated in Istanbul, Turkey.

Another opposition group, the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), long an influential party with representatives in the government and parliament of Tajikistan, was labeled a terrorist group and banned in 2015.

Dozens of IRPT officials and supporters have been prosecuted and many of them imprisoned, drawing criticism from human rights groups.