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Shuttered Tajik Islamic Party Branded As Terrorist Group

The leader of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, Muhiddin Kabiri, says moves by the Dushanbe authorities against his group are politically motivated. (file photo)

DUSHANBE -- A high court in Tajikistan has ruled that an Islamic political party banned and shut down earlier this month should be included on a blacklist of extremist and terrorist organizations.

The September 29 verdict clears the way for authorities to crack down further on the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan's (IRPT) leadership and rank-and-file, seemingly cementing the fate of a party that was until recently a major player on the country's political scene.

The court's decision forces the closure of the IRPT's Najot (Salvation) newspaper and bans the distribution of any video, audio, or printed materials related to the party's activities.

The Tajik Prosecutor-General's Office has accused the IRPT leadership of involvement in a deadly alleged mutiny this month by a serving deputy defense minister, Abduhalim Nazarzoda.

Nazarzoda was reported killed in a special operation on September 16, nearly two weeks after attacks on a police station and weapons depot that police blamed on him and his followers.

After Nazarzoda was reportedly killed along with fellow gunmen -- and other alleged accomplices were rounded up, Tajik authorities arrested 13 leading members of the IRPT, alleging their direct involvement into the mutiny's masterminding. The officials also said IRPT leader Muhiddin Kabiri, who is in self-imposed exile abroad, coordinated Nazarzoda's mutiny.

Kabiri has rejected the accusations against him and his party as politically motivated.

On August 28, the Tajik Justice Ministry announced that the nonparliamentary IRPT could not legally continue its activities because it did not have enough members to qualify as a registered party. The ministry said that all the party's branches in 58 cities and districts across Tajikistan had been closed.

The Justice Ministry gave the IRPT 10 days, until September 7, to cease all activities.

The IRPT played an important part in Tajikistan's 1992-1997 civil war, which left tens of thousands dead and more than 1 million people displaced.

It was the only officially registered Islamic party in the former Soviet Union, and was represented in the Tajik parliament for 15 years until it failed in elections in March to meet the threshold for parliament.

The party challenged the official results of the polls, alleging fraud.

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, who has led Tajikistan since 1992, has been criticized for an authoritarian-style rule and his regime's poor human and civil rights records.