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Tajik Officials May Lessen Charges Against Detained BBC Reporter

The BBC's Tajik correspondent, Urunboy Usmonov
The BBC's Tajik correspondent, Urunboy Usmonov
KHUJAND, Tajikistan -- The lawyer for detained BBC journalist Urunboy Usmonov says she expects the charge of belonging to a banned Islamic organization will be dropped by Tajik authorities, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Lawyer Fayziniso Vohidova told RFE/RL on June 28 that she thinks Usmonov will only be charged with failing to inform officials that he met with members of the banned Islamic organization Hizb ut-Tahrir and took leaflets and other literature from them.

She said she thinks the charge of membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir will be dropped.

Vohidova stressed that Usmonov -- a correspondent for the BBC's Uzbek Service who was arrested by police on June 13 -- was legally accredited in Tajikistan and complied with all legal requirements.

She noted that under Tajik law, a journalist is entitled to remain silent in order to protect his sources.

Hamid Ismoilov, the head of the BBC's Central Asian Service, met briefly with Usmonov in Khujand on June 27.

Ismoilov told RFE/RL that Usmonov appeared depressed. He rejected the charges against him and insists he did not exceed his responsibilities as a journalist.

Ismoilov hopes Usmonov -- who has worked for the BBC in Tajikistan for 10 years -- will be released soon and all charges against him dropped.

Nuriddin Qarshiboev, the head of the National Association of Tajikistan's Independent Media, told RFE/RL that it is good news that the authorities will drop the charge of membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Qarshiboev said he hopes the investigation will be conducted in line with international standards and all accusations against Usmonov will soon be dismissed.

Usmonov's detention on June 13 elicited statements of concern from human rights organizations and from the U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe.

Hungary raised the issue of Usmonov's arrest on June 23 at the weekly meeting in Vienna of the Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Nuriddin Shamsov, who heads the Tajik delegation to the OSCE, said that according to the Tajik Interior Ministry, Usmanov joined Hizb ut-Tahrir in 2009 and has been actively involved in propaganda, distributing extremist materials, recruiting new members through social networks, and calling for the overthrow of the government.

Shamsov added that Usmonov can be held legally in detention for two months after the issue of the arrest warrant. He said officials deny that Usmonov's detention was connected with his professional activities.