Five residents of the Tajik northern city of Konibodom have been jailed for membership in the outlawed Salafi group.

A court in Konibodom has sentenced Damir Sultonov, 37, to 6½ years in prison and Umar Ashourov, 22, Sulton Ismoilov, 38, Navrouz Mavlonov, 40, and Burhon Tukhtayev, 45, to five years in prison each.

The sentence followed their conviction on charges of organizing or participating in an extremist group with use of Internet (Article 307 (3) of Tajikistan’s Penal Code).  All of them will serve the terms in a high-security penal colony.

Damir Sultonov reportedly had the previous conviction under this article of the country’s Penal Code.  

The Tajik authorities banned Salafism as an illegal group on January 8, 2009, saying the Salafi movement represents a potential threat to national security and the Supreme Court added Salafists to its list of religious groups prohibited from operating in the country.

The movement claims to follow a strict and pure form of Islam, but Tajik clerics say the Salafists’ radical stance is similar to that of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Salafists do not recognize other branches of Islam, such as Shi''a and Sufism.  The movement is frequently referred to as Wahhabism, although Salafis reject this as derogatory.

The overwhelming majority of Tajiks are followers of Hanafia, a more liberal branch of Sunni Islam.

On December 8, 2014, the Supreme Court of Tajikistan formally labeled the banned Salafi group as an extremist organization.  The ruling reportedly followed a request submitted to the court by the Prosecutor-General’s Office.  The ruling means that the group’s website and printed materials are also banned.