‘Kidnapped’ Tajik Activist Reappears In Europe

Sharofiddin Gadoev at the Frankfurt Airport on March 2.

Sharofiddin Gadoev at the Frankfurt Airport on March 2.

A prominent Tajik opposition activist, who emerged from self – imposed exile in the Netherlands in Dushanbe last month, has returned to Europe.

Sharofiddin Gadoev appeared on a video live-streamed on a Tajik opposition group’s Facebook account on March 2 and issued thanks “to all the organizations and countries” that voiced concern over his case.

“It is thanks to your tireless efforts that I’m able to speak in a free and peaceful environment,” Gadoev said.

“I will possibly give…more details in the next few hours,” Gadoev said, standing next to Muhiddin Kabiri, the leader of the banned Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT).

The European – based opposition Tajikistan National Alliance sharing the video said it was streamed live from Frankfurt Airport in Germany.

Gadoev, a member of the banned opposition group-24 movement, recently resurfaced in Tajikistan, sparking claims that during a trip to Russia he was kidnapped.

Tajik authorities are insisting that Gadoev, 33, returned on February 15 voluntarily. They shared a video showing Gadoev criticizing the opposition and urging other activists to come back to Tajikistan and follow suit.

But on February 21, the Dutch Foreign Ministry said Gadoev was arrested in Tajikistan on suspicion of “criminal activities,” an allegation linked to his past business activities.

Tajik authorities did not announce his arrest or comment on the Netherlands Declaration.

Four leading human rights groups — Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, the Association of Central Asian Migrants, and the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia — said in a February 24 statement that Gadoev should be released from Tajik custody and allowed to return immediately to the Netherlands, where he has refugee status.

Sources investigating Gadoev’s case found that on February 14, Russian security officers forced Gadoev into a Moscow car and drove him to Domodedovo Airport, where the activist was on a flight to Dushanbe, the human rights groups said in their statement.

Steve Swerdlow, HRW’s Central Asia researcher, said that in Tajikistan Gadoev was facing “trumped-up charges for his peaceful exercise of freedom of expression.”

There were no immediate comments on Gadoev’s return to Europe from Tajik officials.

President Emomali Rahmon, who has ruled Tajikistan since 1992, has been repeatedly criticized for crackdowns on dissent.

Group 24 was banned in October 2014 as an “extremist” movement after calling for protests against the government in Dushanbe and other cities.

The IRPT, a key political rival of the Tajik government, was banned by the Supreme Court as a “terrorist” organization in 2015. The party had in previous years been a coalition member within the government.

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