On March 2, peaceful opposition activist Sharofiddin Gadoev (33) is seen on a live stream at Frankfurt airport where he expresses his appreciation to the organisations and countries that contributed to his release. Gadoev was in February arbitrarily detained in Russia and forcibly returned to Tajikistan.
“I was forced into a minivan by eight-nine Russian security service officials. They taped my mouth shut, put a hood over my head and beat me. During the hours I spent blindfolded at the hands of the Russian security services, I thought they were going to kill me”, says Gadoev to The Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) in a call after his release.
NHC and several other human rights organizations expressed grave concern for the treatment of Gadoev in the custody of Tajik authorities. In a statement published on the February 24, NHC along with Association of Central Asian Migrants, the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia and Human Rights Watch demanded his immediate release and safe return to the Netherlands, his country of legal residence.
“I thank the quick reaction of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Human Rights Watch and Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, as well as the diplomatic community, for my freedom”, says Gadoev.
While expressing relief over Gadoev’s release the NHC Regional Representative in Central Asia, Marius Fossum, underlines the importance of further attention to Tajikistan’s human rights crisis.
«As horrible as this case is, it’s a happy ending. The release confirms that our efforts are not in vain, as we have seen several times during the last year. We shall continue shining a light on human rights violations in Tajikistan”, he says.
Beaten with a sack over his head
In a joint operation carried out by Russian and Tajik security services, Gadoev was lured to travel to Moscow to participate in what he believed was a political dialogue on the situation in Tajikistan. On February 14, Russian security service officers picked him up from his Moscow hotel and set off for what Gadoev was told would be a meeting with officials. Sometime after leaving the hotel, a minivan blocked Gadoev’s car. The occupants of the minivan, eight-nine security officials forced Gadoev into their car.
During the hours I spent blindfolded at the hands of the Russian security services, I thought they were going to kill me
The minivan headed for the Domodedovo airport, where Gadoev was forced onto a Somon Air flight to Dushanbe. During the flight, Gadoev was beaten and had a sack placed over his head by Tajik security services. At arrival Gadoev was taken into custody and sent to Tajikistan’s Interior Ministry’s agency.
Tajikistan’s Interior Ministry claimed Gadoev travelled of free will to Dushanbe from Moscow, with the intention to surrender to the authorities and repent for his so-called “crimes”. Officials posted staged videos and photos, in which Gadoev tells the camera that he had voluntarily returned to Tajikistan. Following his release Gadoev confirmed to the NHC that the statements were made under duress.
Gadoev, is a member of Tajikistan’s opposition National Alliance and the former deputy head of the banned Group 24 opposition political movement.