Raufkhon Alizoda, a prosecutor in the trial of stand-up comedian and journalist Khairullo Mirsaidov, yesterday asked the court to sentence Khairullo Mirsaidov to a 13-year prison term and impose a 123,913 somoni fine.  Mirsaidov, who faces charges of misappropriate of state funds, document forgery and false denunciation, maintains his innocence. 

Ex-head of the Sughd department for youth affairs, Olim Zohidzoda, asked the court to rule over Mirsaidov’s case in accordance with the country’s legislation.   “I have never demanded any money from him,” Zohidzoda said.  

Zohidzoda’s defense lawyer, Komil Abdullozoda, demanded payment of moral compensation of 50,000 somoni to his client.  

Mirsaidov, who faces charges of misappropriate of state funds, document forgery and false denunciation, maintains his innocence and his defense lawyers say the court failed to produce proofs to support charges brought against their client.

Mirsaidov, however, admitted that there were some shortcomings in the report on funds provided for the KVN team activities and he pleaded responsible for that.

The deputy head of the Khujand court, Jourakhon Rahmon, who is presiding over the trial, says the verdict is being given today afternoon.    

Khairullo Mirsaidov was put under custody on December 5 and charges of misappropriate of state funds (Article 245, Part 4 of Tajikistan’s Penal Code), and document forgery (Article 340, Part 1) and false denunciation (Article 346, Part 2) were officially brought against him on December 8.

Khairullo Mirsaidov in November last year applied to the president, prosecutor-general and Sughd governor, asking them to pay attention to problems facing the Khujand-based KVN team because of some corrupt officials in the Sughd province.  Mirsaidov publicly stated that Olim Zohidzoda, the head of the Sughd directorate for youth and sports affairs, demanded a US$1,000 bribe.

Mirsaidov failed to produce evidence to support his application against Zohidzoda.  Zohidzoda has filed a counterclaim against Mirsaidov accusing him of defamation.

Mirsaidov is an independent journalist and a former correspondent of the Dushanbe-based Asia-Plus news agency and Germany's Deutsche Welle radio.

He is also the leader of the Khujand-based KVN comedy team, a stand-up comedy competition which originated among university students in the Soviet Union and is still popular in many post-Soviet states.

Mirsaidov’s case has drawn international attention, with the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) releasing a statement in December calling on Tajikistan to release Mirsaidov and drop all charges against him.

Amnesty International (AI) on January 25 urged the Tajik authorities to “immediately” release Khairullo Mirsaidov, who has been in pretrial detention for more than a month.  Amnesty International said in its statement that “Khairullo Mirsaidov is a prisoner of conscience who is being punished solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression.”