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U.S. Diplomat, Tajik Officials Discuss Deadly Prison Unrest

The top U.S. diplomat in Tajikistan has met with officials from the Prosecutor General's Office and the Foreign Ministry to discuss deadly unrest at a prison in the northern city of Khujand.

In a statement shared with RFE/RL, the U.S. Embassy said that Charge d'Affaires Kevin Covert held talks on November 20 "to learn about the steps the Tajik government has taken to investigate alleged violations and to insist that the rule of law be upheld."

"The U.S. government appreciates its relationship with the Tajik government, which allows it to have such candid conversations. The embassy will continue to be a voice for human rights in Tajikistan," the statement said.

Tajik law enforcement officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told RFE/RL earlier this month that at least 52 people, including two prison guards, were killed in violence that erupted at the prison late on November 7.

On November 19, the U.S. Embassy said that the U.S. and European ambassadors met that day with members of the Committee Against Torture to gather facts about the Khujand prison violence and other matters.

In a Facebook post, Covert called that meeting "important and sobering."

"It is important for the [Tajik] government to conduct a thorough investigation, follow the rule of law, and protect the human rights of prisoners and their families," Covert wrote.

Sughd regional court's sources told RFE/RL on November 20 that the warden of the prison in Khujand, Faizullo Safarzod, was sent to pretrial detention for two months.

Tajik law enforcement sources told RFE/RL earlier that Safarzod was detained on November 15 and charged with negligence and abuse of power.

According to the sources, Safarzod was accused of failing to inform the Penitentiary Service about the unrest in a timely manner.

News of the warden's reported arrest has not been officially confirmed by Tajik authorities.

The extremist group Islamic State (IS) claimed the riot broke out after one of its "soldiers" attacked a prison guard.

Government sources, also speaking on condition of anonymity, told RFE/RL on November 9 that suspected IS supporters convicted of religious extremism and terrorism were behind the unrest.

Almost two weeks after the violence, the Tajik government has issued no public statements on the incident.

The penitentiary -- high-security prison No. 3/3 -- largely houses inmates convicted on charges related to terrorism, extremism, and other serious crimes.