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Tajik Pop Star Among Amnestied Women Prisoners

Farzona Khurshed on August 22
Farzona Khurshed on August 22
NORAK, Tajikistan -- A Tajik pop star who helped her fiance escape police custody was among more than 100 women inmates freed under a prisoner amnesty, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Farzona Khurshed was jailed for two years in February 2010 for helping her fiance, Farrukh Ruziev, escape by car from a Dushanbe courthouse where he was on trial for fraud.

Khurshed was among 112 inmates released today from a women's prison in Norak in southern Khatlon Province, in line with an amnesty passed by the lower house of parliament last week.

Khurshed told RFE/RL outside the prison gate that now she would "value her freedom."

Twelve of the women freed are citizens of Uzbekistan, Russia, Latvia, or Lithuania. Four have small babies.

The amnesty is to mark the 20th anniversary, on September 8, of Tajikistan's independence.

Prisoners eligible for release include those who are disabled, World War II veterans, military deserters, persons over the age of 55, and those suffering from cancer or other serious illnesses.

People sentenced for economic crimes may be released if they have repaid the financial losses they caused. Former rebels who fought government troops in 1997-98 are also eligible for amnesty.

The amnesty extends to members of banned Islamic groups and political parties who were imprisoned for up to five years or have served three-quarters of their terms, except for those found guilty of murder, terrorism, or other serious crimes.

In addition to those released from jail or pretrial detention, thousands more may have their prison terms cut or their suspended sentences annulled.

According to unofficial estimates, some 15,000 people stand to benefit from the amnesty, including 4,000 people who could be released from prison.

This is the 13th amnesty the government has approved. Under the last, in November 2009, some 10,000 prisoners were released.