A court in Dushanbe’s Shohmansour district has ordered pretrial detention of two popular bloggers known for their reports criticizing authorities and detained in Dushanbe late on June 15. 

Their defense lawyer Abdurahmon Sharipov told Asia-Plus that in addition to two articles of Tajikistan’s Penal Code: Article 259 – illegal entrepreneurship and 346 (2) -- deliberately false denunciation,  one more article was added to Daler Imomali’s criminal case: Article 307 note 3 (2) – participation in activities of political parties, public or religious associations, which are banned in Tajikistan in connection with the implementation of extremist activities, as well as assistance in their activities with use of mass media, Internet network or otherwise.  

As far as Abdullo Ghurbati is concerned, he was also was remanded in custody for two months after a hearing reportedly held in secret on June 18.

Sharipov said Ghurbati once again denied the charges at the detention hearing.

Recall, authorities accuse Ghurbati of beating a police officer at the Shohmansour police station, a charge that could carry a fine or a two-year prison sentence.

Daler Imomali and Abdullo Ghurbati were arrested on June 15 after being summoned by police for questioning and placed in a detention center in Dushanbe on charges they deny.

Abdullo Ghurbati was charged with attacking a police officer while Daler Imomali was charged with illegal entrepreneurship and premeditated false denunciation.

Ghurbati was charged after he was allowed to leave the police building following questioning in an unspecified case and was on his way out of the building when he was approached by a police officer, who rearrested him claiming the blogger punched him.  Abdullo Ghurbati vehemently denies that he attacked the police officer.

Daler Imomali, meanwhile, said he did not know he had to pay taxes for his blogging activities, adding that a video from which the charge of premeditated false denunciation against him stemmed had been deleted from YouTube long ago.

The arrests come after an outcry by human rights advocates and media groups over an attack on journalists from RFE/RL's Tajik Service and Current Time last month.  Tajik authorities have launched a probe into the incident.

Tajik known journalist Rajab Mirzo on June 17 applied to Majlisi Milli (Tajikistan’s upper chamber of parliament) Speaker Rustam Emomali and asked him to stand up for detained independent bloggers Daler Imomali and Abdullo Ghurbati.  About a thousand people signed up for the appeal on social networks.    

In his appeal posted on his Facebook page, journalist Rajab Mirzo, who is administrator of the “Pabulum for Reflection” group on Facebook, in particular, notes that detention of young journalists and civil activists can seriously harm the image of the state, especially Dushanbe, which Rustam Emomali, who is also Mayor of Dushanbe, “is making great efforts to improve.” 

“Officially, law enforcement has not yet announced what the young journalists are accused of, while the accusations we heard about are absolutely unfounded.  These journalists are very educated and aware of the rights and would never do such things,” the appeal says.  

Rajab Mirzo notes that young journalists were doing their job, and thus proving that there is freedom of speech in Tajikistan and one can speak frankly about the real situation.

“Revenge of officials for criticism from bloggers will only play into the hands of interested groups, who will use it for their own purposes,” the appeal says. 

Rajab Mirzo asks Majlisi Milli Speaker Rustam Emomali to take the bloggers’ cases under his personal control.