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Tajik Journalist Freed, Ordered to Pay Fine Over Writings

Tajik journalist Mahmadyusuf Ismoilov (file photo)
Tajik journalist Mahmadyusuf Ismoilov (file photo)
DUSHANBE -- A court in Tajikistan's northern town of Khujand has freed a journalist who was facing 16 years imprisonment on charges related to his professional activities.

The court, however, barred Mahmadyusuf Ismoilov from journalistic work for three years, and ordered him to pay the equivalent of $7,100 for causing moral damages.

Ismoilov indicated that he will appeal the court's decision, which was made on October 14.

"I am not entirely happy with this verdict," he said. "Why do they fine me? What for? Why do they bar me from journalistic activities for three years? Can they silence the mass media? That is not the right thing to do. We serve the people, and therefore our work benefits the government. We were fighting against the prosecutors."

The 51-year-old reporter for "Nuri Zindagi" ("Light of Light), a local weekly in the northern Asht district had been charged with criminal libel and insulting public officials, extortion, and incitement of "regional hatred." He had been in pretrial detention since November 2010.

Media rights groups maintained that Ismoilov was targeted for criticizing local authorities.

Ismoilov's case has prompted international condemnations and calls for his immediate release.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has said a harsh verdict on Ismoilov would have an "enormous chilling effect" on all other journalists in Tajikistan.

Ismoilov's case has also garnered attention because it has run at the same time as the trial of a BBC journalist, Urunboy Usmonov, who is accused of ties to a banned Islamist group in a case in which authorities have already acknowledged irregularities.