Head of the Main Penitentiary Directorate of the Ministry of Justice, Mansourjon Umarov, has confirmed information about detention of group of prison inmates who were planning to create an organized radical group in the Khujand prison.  

“To-date, criminal proceedings have been instituted against several leaders and activists of this organization,” Umarov told Asia-Plus in an interview yesterday afternoon.  

According to him, some of them were involved in the riot that occurred in the Vahdat prison in 2019.  

“An investigation is under way,” Umarov said, noting that those inmates had previously been convicted of crimes of an extremist nature and membership in political parties and movements banned in Tajikistan.

According to him, the new group inside the Khujand prison was headed by inmates Azizbek Mirzoyev and Jamshed (Umarov did not give his last name – Asia-Plus). 

“Whether their goal was murder or riot we don't know; we have no such evidence.  But the fact that they wanted to create an organized group of like-minded people inside the prison is proved,” Umarov noted.

He did not specify the number of all members of that group but noted that the Prosecutor-General’s Office had instituted criminal proceedings against 30 of them.

“Additional investigation against several other members of this group is still under way,” Umarov added.  

Meanwhile, Radio Liberty’s Tajik Service, known locally as Radio Ozodi, has reported 68 inmates of the Khujand prison were detained at the end of July for an attempt to organize a riot in the prison.

It was noted that that the group had been headed by Azizbek Mirzoyev, a resident of Shahrinav district.  The prisoners called him the "amir" of that group.

It is to be noted that it is one of the few cases in which an organized group has been identified within the penitentiary institution and the possible prison riot has been prevented.

Recall, a riot occurred in the Khujand-based men’s high-security penal colony 3/19 on April 14, 1997 when prisoners began to protest living conditions and perceived injustice in the prison system.  Security forces put down the protest on April 17, 1997.  The Tajik government said at the time that 24 prisoners had been killed and 35 had been wounded, but human rights organizations estimated as many as 150 people had been killed.

Another riot broke out at a high-security penal colony 3/3 in Khujand late on November 7, 2018.  According to some source, at least 50 inmates were killed, along with two guards, and numerous others wounded in the riot.  It is not clear what sparked the riot that was suppressed by riot police sent to the prison.  Meanwhile, Amaq news agency, which is linked to the Islamic State (IS) terror group, reported on November 8 that one of IS fighters “is responsible for the attack in Tajikistan that sparked a prison riot.”  Some media outlets have dwelled on the fact that the Khujand high-security penal colony has been used to hold people convicted on charges of belonging to radical religious organizations.

In 2019, Vahdat was the focus on international attention when a riot occurred in the city's prison, believed to be instigated by members of Islamic State, which led to the deaths of three guards and 29 inmates.