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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Detained Tajik Publisher Awaits Word of His Fate

Contrary to defense lawyers' expectations, prosecutors did not begin hearings Monday on the extradition of an opposition Tajik publisher detained last week in Moscow at Dushanbe's request.

Dododjon Atovulloyev was detained late Friday on charges of sedition and insulting the Tajik president, filed by the Tajik prosecutor's office, as he was passing through Sheremetyevo Airport en route from Germany to Uzbekistan.

His lawyer Andrei Rakhmilovich said in a telephone interview Monday that he had been denied access to his client for a third consecutive day because the prosecutor in charge of the case — the only one who can issue permission to see Avtolluyev — has not been answering telephone calls.

The Prosecutor General's Office declined to say why the extradition hearings did not start Monday, or whether the delay was connected to Atovulloyev's appeal for a political asylum, submitted to President Vladimir Putin over the weekend.

Atovulloyev, who now lives in Germany with his family, fled Tajikistan in 1993. For the past several years, he has been publishing the Moscow-based Chirogi Ruz, or Daylight, newspaper, which appears in Tajik and Russian.

The paper has criticized the Tajik government, especially President Emomali Rakhmonov and his ally, Dushanbe mayor Makhmadsaid Ubaidulloyev. Atovulloyev accused them of supporting Islamic rebels and profiting from the region's large-scale drug smuggling.

According to press reports, Ubaidulloyev was in Moscow two weeks ago, and some observers believe the publisher was blacklisted during that visit. Citing unnamed sources, the Kommersant daily reported that Russian secret service agents tried to wrestle the publisher from prosecutors, but failed due to a lack of proper documents.

In an interview published in Kommersant on Monday, Atovulloyev said the Tajik Embassy tried to pressure the prosecutor's office to hand him over quickly. The embassy's third secretary, Bekhruz Faizulloyev, denied these claims in a telephone interview Monday, saying the embassy had "nothing to do with the whole thing."

Russia and Tajikistan are both signatories of a convention on fighting terrorism, extremism and separatism, signed last month by the so-called Shanghai Five — a group that also includes China, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. According to press reports, the convention foresees enhancing cooperation between the countries' law enforcement bodies.