The appeal hearings for the journalist, Khairullo Mirsaidov, were adjourned on August 15 until August 22.

Representatives of the U.S. Embassy and the European Union Delegation to Tajikistan, public associations, media and relatives of Khairullo Mirsaidov totaling 25 people came to the Sughd regional court Wednesday morning to attend the appeal hearings for Khairullo Mirsaidov   

But clerk of the Sughd regional court said that the appeal hearings were adjourned until August 22.  According to him, the adjournment was ordered because of one of three judges participating in the appeal hearing had participated in the court of first instance, and therefore, the Sughd regional court chamber decided to replace him with another judge.  Bu the new judge should familiarize himself with the case materials.  

The appeal hearings will begin on August 22, 2018 at 10:00 am.  

Recall, Khairullo Mirsaidov was sentenced to 12 years in prison on July 11, 2018.  The sentence followed Mirsaidov’s conviction on charges of misappropriate of state funds, document forgery and false denunciation.  The court also imposed a 123,913 somoni fine. 

Mirsaidov maintained his innocence.  He, however, admitted that there were some shortcomings in the report on funds provided for the KVN team activities and he pleaded responsible for that.

Mirsaidov is an independent journalist and a former correspondent of the Dushanbe-based Asia-Plus news agency and Germany's Deutsche Welle radio.

He is also the leader of the Khujand-based KVN comedy team, a stand-up comedy competition which originated among university students in the Soviet Union and is still popular in many post-Soviet states.

Mirsaidov’s case has drawn international attention, with the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) releasing a statement in December calling on Tajikistan to release Mirsaidov and drop all charges against him.  Amnesty International (AI) on January 25 urged the Tajik authorities to “immediately” release Khairullo Mirsaidov, who has been in pretrial detention for more than a month.  Amnesty International said in its statement that “Khairullo Mirsaidov is a prisoner of conscience who is being punished solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression.”  Human Rights Watch (HRW) Central Asia researcher Steve Swerdlow described Mirsaidov’s case as a “travesty of justice.”

In a note issued on July 11, the embassies of the United Kingdom, Germany, France, the United States in Dushanbe and the EU Delegation to Tajikistan say, “We understand Mr. Mirsaidov has been sentenced to 12 years in prison.  We believe this sentence is extremely harsh, incomparable with the crime he was accused of.”  They note the sentence will have a negative impact on the freedom of media and expression in Tajikistan, and they “strongly urge the relevant authorities in the Republic of Tajikistan to re-consider this verdict.”

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir, also expressed his concern about an excessive sentence of 12 years in a penal colony handed down to Khairullo Mirsaidov by a court in Tajikistan.  On July 11, he called on the Tajik authorities to immediately release Khairullo Mirsaidov and to ensure that journalists in Tajikistan are free to report on all matters of public interest without fear of reprisal.

UN human rights experts  condemned the sentence calling it a “clearly targeted measure against journalism and the public’s right to information.”  They said that Mirsaidov’s sentence demonstrates that “‘[the Tajik] authorities are cracking down on reporting of corruption, rather than on corruption itself.”

Twelve human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), on August 13 called on diplomats and representatives of international organizations to press Tajik authorities “to unconditionally set aside the conviction against a respected journalist convicted on politically motivated charges.”

They also urged representatives of the diplomatic community to attend the appeal hearings, which were due to begin on August 15.

The watchdogs noted that Mirsaidov’s conviction was in retaliation for his public allegations and criticism of corruption against local government officials in the Sughd province.