DUSHANBE -- Tajik authorities say families of inmates are now allowed to visit their relatives in the Central Asian country’s penitentiaries, seven months after a ban on such visits was imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The deputy chief of the Justice Ministry’s Main Penitentiary Directorate, Ilhom Mahmudov, told RFE/RL over the weekend that relatives are now allowed to visit prisoners if they can show negative coronavirus test results obtained 24 hours prior to the visit.
Media reports said in June that 11 inmates and three guards had died of COVID-19 in Tajikistan. Officials rejected the reports, saying that they had died of acute pneumonia.
The Civil Committee to Protect Political Hostages and Prisoners in Tajikistan, which was established by exiled opposition activists, has demanded Tajik authorities set up a commission consisting of civil rights activists and representatives of international organizations such as the World Health Organization, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Doctors Without Borders to inspect Tajik penitentiaries and check the inmates' health.
The committee also called on Tajik authorities to allow the inmates infected with coronavirus to be treated in medical institutions outside prisons.
As of November 16, Tajik health authorities have reported 11,610 coronavirus cases and 85 deaths.