DUSHANBE -- Tajikstan's lower chamber of parliament has voted to improve prison conditions for convicts serving life sentences, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.
Tajikistan announced a moratorium in 2004 on implementing the death penalty. Since then, the maximum penalty given to criminals has been life imprisonment. But the regime for such prisoners was unclear.
Tajik Justice Minister Bakhtiyor Khudoyorov said prisoners jailed for life will now be entitled to a minimum of two meetings per year with relatives and given a third meeting in the case of "good behavior."
He added that the conditions for prisoners serving life sentences should be better than they are for other prisoners.
Under the new legislation, those serving life sentences will be allowed the unrestricted purchase of goods from the prison store.
Prisoners serving life sentences whose conduct is "good" will be kept no more than two in a cell.
Oisha Mirzoeva's brother, former Presidential Guard commander General Ghaffor Mirzoev, is serving a life sentence. She said she has the opportunity to meet with him only twice a year and brings him medicine, clothes, food, and other necessary things.
Mirzoeva said her brother has a radio but no TV or refrigerator in his cell.
Local and international NGOs and human rights defenders have criticized the conditions in Tajik prisons. They say almost all of the country's prisons were built 50-60 years ago and need to be modernized.
They also claim some prisoners are subjected to torture and harassment in jail.
Almondukht Ahmadipoor, the International Committee of the Red Cross's (ICRC) representative in Tajikistan, told RFE/RL that until now the ICRC not been allowed to visit prisons and cannot comment on their conditions.
Muhammadali Vatanov, who heads a committee in the lower house of parliament, said that after the revision of the criminal code with the new legislation, the Tajik human rights ombudsman now has the right to visit prisons and check on conditions.