UPDATE: On March 7, 2023, five days after our initial statement, the Tajik service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reports that Abdullohi Shamsiddin is being held at the detention center of Tajikistan’s security service. According to RFE/RL Shamsiddin called his wife on March 7 and told her he is being held and investigated by the Tajik security services. He did not tell her on what grounds he is being held.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is relieved that Abdullohi Shamsiddin has been located. However, the fact that he is being held by the security services only underlines our view that he is a victim of political persecution, and that Tajik authorities target him in retaliation for his father’s legitimate involvement in the peaceful political opposition. We reiterate our demand that Dushanbe credibly charge him or immediately release him.
On January 18 this year, German authorities deported Abdullohi Shamsiddin to Tajikistan, after a court in Germany had rejected his third asylum plea earlier that month. Abdullohi Shamsiddin is the son of Shamsiddin Saidov, another Tajik refugee and a senior member of the peaceful Tajik opposition party the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT). The IRPT was ruled illegal and declared extremist by Tajik authorities in 2015 amidst a brutal human rights crackdown, and hundreds of party members have since been imprisoned on trumped-up charges. In recent years, Tajikistan’s human rights record has deteriorated further, and authorities have been routinely persecuting relatives and family members of opposition members, activists, and even lawyers. Fearing similar persecution, Abdullohi Shamsiddin had been seeking protection in German, from where he was deported after German authorities questioned whether he was in fact the son of Mr. Shamsiddin Saidov (a DNA test, the results of which were ready only after Shamsiddin’s deportation, concluded with 99.9999% probability of paternity).
On January 18, German authorities deported Shamsiddin by a plane from Düsseldorf to Dushanbe via Istanbul. Tajik activists told the Norwegian Helsinki Committee that witnesses reported seeing Abdullohi Shamsiddin on January 18, around 18:20 local, at the Istanbul International Airport, he has not been heard from since – the next morning, in the hours after midnight local time on January 19, relatives of Mr. Shamsiddin awaited his flight at the Dushanbe International Airport in Tajikistan. The relatives never saw Mr. Shamsiddin leave the airport, believing that he was arrested already on the plane. Notwithstanding, officials from both the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor General’s Office have clained that they do not possess any information on his whereabouts.
– Tajik authorities must at once disclose the location of Mr. Abdullohi Shamsiddin, and explain why nobody has heard from him since his flight arrived in Dushanbe on January 19, said Berit Lindeman, Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.
– If holding him, Dushanbe must present credible charges against him or release him immediately. In any case, his lawyer must be given access to him.
It is well known to Tajik authorities that Abdullohi Shamsiddin is a close associate of the Germany-based IRPT-leader Muhiddin Kabiri, and that the two were in regular and close contact in Germany up to the deportation of Mr. Shamsiddin. Activists speaking to the Norwegian Helsinki Committee expressed fears that his close association with Mr. Kabiri will put Shamsiddin at further risk of torture and other ill treatment. They fear that the notorious Tajik security service, colloquially known by its Russian-language acronym GKNB, will torture him to extract information about Muhiddin Kabiri in an effort to map the routines and associates in Germany of the exiled Tajik opposition leader.
In recent years, a full-blown human rights crisis has been spiraling out of control in Tajikistan where authorities have imprisoned hundreds of peaceful opposition members, activists, and intellectuals, including lawyers, journalists and others, on politically motivated bogus charges, and kidnapped, disappeared and killed political opponents and dissidents. The regime has all but eradicated freedom of expression, cracked down brutally on the press and outlawed any and all political opposition. Impunity for gross human rights violations remains the norm and torture is a common feature of the penitentiary system.