The opposition Social-Democratic Party of Tajikistan (SDPT) has been denied hiring defense lawyer for its deputy leader Mahmurod Odinayev.

“The authorities justified refusal by saying that Odinayev has been detained not for his participation in the party activities but for hooliganism,” SDPT leader Rahmatillo Zoyirov told Asia-Plus in an interview.

According to him, the government lawyer has been assigned to Mahmurod Odinayev’s case.  

“Odinayev’s relatives intend to hire one more defense lawyer for him within the next few days,” Zoyirov added. 

Recall, the deputy leader of the SDPT Mahmurod Odinayev, 58, who has been on missing since November 20, was detained in Dushanbe on December 5 and brought under convoy to Hisor.  

According to a statement released by the Prosecutor-General’s Office, Odinayev together with his wife Mehrinigor Rizoyeva and their son Habibullo Odinayev on October 29 came to the military registration and enlistment office in Hisor and noted that their son had been drafted into the army illegally.  And they deliberately disturbed public order, according to the statement. 

Despite the warning from government officials, Odinayev reportedly “continued his illegal actions, using threats, brute force and indecent language against government officials.”

The Hisor prosecutor-general’s office on November 20 instituted criminal proceedings against Mahmurod Odinayev under provisions of Article 237 (2) of Tajikistan’s Penal Code – hooliganism committed by a group of people by prior conspiracy, with resistance to government officials or to other persons charged with the responsibility of maintaining public order; an investigation is under way. 

If convicted, Odinayev could face up to five years in prison or a fine of 30,000 somonis to 60,000 somonis. 

Recall, relatives of Odinayev told Radio Liberty’s Tajik Service that he went missing days after he placed a post on Facebook asking Dushanbe Mayor Rustam Emomali to allow him and his party's activists to stage a protest over food price hikes.

According to the relatives, they officially turned to police several times, asking law enforcement officers to find the missing politician.  Odinayev's relatives also said police had questioned them regarding the opposition figure's mysterious disappearance.

Rahmatillo Zoyirov told Asia-Plus that he was contacted by Odinayev one day before the reported arrest.  “He told me that he was being persecuted for his convictions and that he was forced to flee when law enforcement officials came looking for him,” Zoyirov said.