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Homeless Tajik Family Gets Suspended Sentences For 'Hooliganism'

Atobullo Raqibov
Atobullo Raqibov
DUSHANBE -- Four Tajiks charged with smashing the window of a bulldozer used by authorities to demolish their home were given suspended sentences today, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Atobullo Raqibov, his wife, and his two sisters received suspended one-year prison terms from a court in the Faizabad district, 50 kilometers east of Dushanbe.

The prosecutor had called for a three-year prison term for Raqibov and two-year suspended sentences for the three women. Raqibov told RFE/RL he hopes he and the authorities will find an acceptable solution to the problem.

In August 2009, the local council ordered the demolition of Raqibov's house on the grounds that it was illegally built on the route of a planned highway.

In September 2010, Raqibov and his family sought to prevent the demolition and a window of a bulldozer was smashed during the ensuing confrontation. The local prosecutor accused Raqibov, his two sisters, and his wife of hooliganism and opened a criminal investigation.

The Faizabad court began hearings in Raqibov's case this month, but he failed to appear in court and on April 13 the judge ordered his arrest.

On April 27, Rustam Obidov, the driver of the bulldozer, withdrew his suit against Raqibov, saying he does not want to see the father of five children jailed. At the same time, he said he hopes Raqibov will reimburse him for the damage, which he estimated at $350.

Lawyer Oynihol Bobonazarova, who followed the trial, told RFE/RL that the verdict is unjust because nobody proved that it was the Raqibovs who damaged the bulldozer. She said punishing four people for one broken window is not fair.

Raqibov's case was covered by the media because they staged several unsuccessful protests in front of the presidential office, the ombudsman's office, and the UN building in Dushanbe.

Earlier this week, parliament deputy Muhiddin Kabiri said the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), which he heads, will help organize construction of a new house for Raqibov's family.

Kabiri said the local authorities will provide a plot of land, the IRPT will organize a fund-raising effort, and volunteers will build a new house according to the traditional custom of "hashar," which means the house owner provides food for the volunteer builders.