Convicted independent journalist Zavqibek Saidamini has asked the Dushanbe city court to review the verdict passed upon him by the court in Dushanbe’s Ismoili Somoni district. 

He wrote a statement at the Dushanbe-based pretrial detention facility on November 16, and a copy of that statement got to Asia-Plus on November 24.  

The journalist said he did not agree with the verdict of the Ismoili Somoni court, noting that investigation and consideration of the case were one-sided and incomplete.    

According to him, the judge did not take into account the evidence presented and the testimony of some witnesses and entered the name of the missing witness in the verdict.  Besides the date of his arrest does not match the date indicated in the verdict.

Saidamini noted that he could give dozens of other arguments during consideration of the appeal.  

“Taking into consideration the presence of many inconsistencies during the preliminary investigation and the trial and my willingness to cooperate with law enforcement authorities, I ask to review and cancel the verdict passed by the Ismoili Somoni district,” the journalist writes.  

Photo / Asia-Plus

Recall, the court in Dushanbe’s Ismoili Somoni district sentenced Zavqibek Saidamini to seven years in prison on November 3. 

The journalist pleaded not guilty to the charges brought against him.

The court's ruling was nearly identical to the prosecution's earlier demand for a 7 ½-year prison term.

The trial of Zavqibek Saidamini that began at the Dushanbe-based pretrial detention center on October 11 was held behind closed doors.

Zavqibek Saidamini was detained in Vahdat Township, some 17 kilometers east of Dushanbe, on July 8.  He was charged with participating in an extremist group.

The charge stems from Saidamini’s links to two banned opposition parties, the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) and Group 24.

According to some sources, he has repeatedly denied supporting any political group.  Both organizations also deny any cooperation with the journalist.

Zavqibek Saidamini published commentary and reporting on his YouTube channels, which have a total of about 15,000 subscribers.  His recent videos reportedly cover topics including border conflicts with Kyrgyzstan, religion, and allegations of unlawful military drafting practices.

Saidamini reportedly worked as an editor and presenter at the state broadcaster Tajikistan Television until 2019, when he quit as he felt unable to report freely. 

Currently, Tajik journalists and bloggers Ulfatkhonim Mamadshoyeva, Abdusattor Pirmuhammadzoda, and Hushom Gulyuam are in custody waiting for their trials on extremism charges that human rights groups call politically motivated.

Earlier this year, journalists Abdullo Ghurbati, Mamadsulton Mavlonazarov, and Daler Imomali were sentenced to prison terms of between seven and 10 years on extremism charges.

International groups have called on the Tajik government to release the detained reporters and end its campaign against the free press.

Ranked 152nd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2022 World Press Freedom Index, Tajikistan has fallen 36 places in the index since 2015.