France: No extradition to Tajikistan

France must not fulfill the request from Tajik authorities to extradite an independent journalist to Tajikistan, where he will be at risk of torture and other forms of ill-treatment, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee said in a statement today.

Earlier this year, Tajik authorities sent an extradition request to France, seeking the forced return to Tajikistan of Saduridinov Muhammadiqbol. Muhammadiqbol, who left Tajikistan fleeing persecution in 2012, is the editor in chief of the newspaper “Isloh”  (Reform), an opposition-oriented newspaper that he has led from his European exile for the last six years.

As the editor of Isloh, Muhammadiqbol has become a highly visible and outspoken critic of Tajik authorities. He is known for exposing government corruption, grave human rights violations and for voicing harsh criticisms of the Tajik regime. In response, Tajik authorities have for years sought to retaliate against Muhammadiqbol and to silence him and his news outlet. He told the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, that in his view, authorities intensified their efforts to hunt him down after he opened the “Isloh TV” YouTube channel in 2019. In 2020, while he was already in self-imposed exile, Tajik authorities charged him with large-scale fraud[1], and declared him a wanted person. The next year, authorities handed five-year sentences[2] to five individuals who were accused of providing information to Isloh. As these individuals were prosecuted, authorities declared that they consider Isloh to be part of the banned and extremist-ruled opposition party the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), effectively rendering any affiliation with the newspaper a criminal offense in Tajikistan.

– The regime in Tajikistan has for years been mass-imprisoning critics at home and hunting down opponents abroad. Our work clearly shows that any dissident who falls into the hands of Tajik authorities is at great risk of torture and other ill-treatment as well as political imprisonment, says Berit Lindeman, Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. – France cannot forcibly return Muhammadiqbol to Tajikistan without breaking the inviolable principle of non-refoulement.

The alleged crime for which Muhammadiqbol is wanted by Tajik authorities is to have taken place back in 2010. According to the Tajik Prosecutor General, Muhammadiqbol then defrauded three named Tajik individuals of the total sum of USD 430 000 in some dubious investment scheme. Muhammadiqbol himself denies any crime and claims the criminal charges are politically motivated and designed to silence his reporting. Indeed, this is not the first time Tajik authorities are charging critics and opponents with fraud charges – the Norwegian Helsinki Committee has documented at least eight other cases in which Tajik authorities charge dissidents and critics under article 247, including human rights lawyers Buzurgmehr Yorov  and Nuriddin Makhkamov.

Sadrudin Muhammadiqbol has been in the crosshairs of Tajik authorities for over a decade. He told the Norwegian Helsinki Committee that he left Tajikistan for Kyrgyzstan already in 2012 after receiving a warning that authorities were looking to persecute him. In Kyrgyzstan, he was detained by the Kyrgyz security services in late 2015 and warned that he would be returned to Tajikistan unless he were to leave the country shortly. After leaving Kyrgyzstan in November 2015, he stayed in Kazakhstan until he was warned that the Kazakh state likewise might extradite him to Tajikistan. In December 2015, he left Kazakhstan for Belarus, where he was briefly detained, before he relocated to the European Union. He has been based in France since 2017, from where he has fulfilled his duties as the editor in chief of Isloh.


[1] Article 247.4 of the Criminal Code: “Swindling in especially large amounts”

[2] Mukhammadsodik Saidov; Abdussator Mirziyoyev; Izatullo Safarzoda; Abdugafor Radzhabov; Aslamkhon Karimov. All were sentenced under article 307 of the Criminal Code: “Public calls to forcible changing the constitutional system of the Republic of Tajikistan”

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