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Jailed Tajik Opposition Leader Rejects Amnesty, Demands Full Exoneration

Mahmurod Odinaev
Mahmurod Odinaev

DUSHANBE -- The jailed deputy chairman of the opposition Social Democratic Party of Tajikistan, Mahmurod Odinaev, has refused to sign papers that would shorten his prison term under a mass amnesty, saying he will only accept his immediate release and full exoneration.

Odinaev's son, Habibullo Rizoev, told RFE/RL on October 18 that the mass amnesty marking the 30th anniversary of the Central Asian nation's independence meant his father would see his 14-year prison term cut by three years.

"My father refused to sign papers offered to him by the state commission for the implementation of the law on amnesty. He stated that he is innocent and demanded to be released at once. By signing the paper, my father would indirectly accept the guilt. But he said earlier that he will never plead guilty to an act he never committed," Rizoev said.

Meanwhile, an official of Tajikistan's State Penitentiary Service told RFE/RL on condition of anonymity that Odinaev's prison term will be shortened by three years, even if he refuses to sign the papers.

Odinaev, 59, was sentenced in January to 14 years in prison on charges of hooliganism and "calling for extremism," which he and his supporters have denied.

He went missing in November 2020 after he asked Dushanbe Mayor Rustam Emomali in a Facebook post to allow him and supporters of the Social Democratic Party -- the only opposition party functioning in Tajikistan -- to stage a demonstration over food-price hikes.

On December 5, the Tajik Prosecutor-General's Office acknowledged that Odinaev had been arrested in Dushanbe.

In February, one of Odinaev's sons, Shaikhmuslihiddin Rizoev, was sentenced to six years in prison after he was found guilty of hooliganism and attempted rape, charges Rizoev, his relatives, and friends have rejected as politically motivated.

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