U.S. diplomat, representatives of Tajik MFA and Prosecutor-General’s Office discuss deadly prison riot

Tajikistan Materials 21 November 2018 11:00 (UTC +04:00)

The top U.S. diplomat in Tajikistan yesterday met with representatives from the Prosecutor General's Office and the Foreign Ministry of Tajikistan to discuss deadly unrest that broke out at a prison in the northern city of Khujand late on November 7. He called on the Tajik authorities to respect the rule of law while investigating the incident, news.tj reports.

Charge d'Affaires Kevin Covert reportedly met with representatives from the Prosecutor General's Office and the Foreign Ministry of Tajikistan yesterday afternoon to learn about the progress made in the investigation of the recent Khujand prison riot.

According to a statement by the U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe, Charge d'Affaires Kevin Covert on November 20 held talks with representatives of the Foreign Ministry and the Prosecutor-General’s Office to learn about the steps the Tajik government has taken to investigate alleged violations and to insist that the rule of law be upheld.

On November 19, the U.S. and European ambassadors met with members of the Committee against Torture to gather facts about the Khujand prison violence and other matters.

In a Facebook post, Mr. Covert called that meeting “important and sobering.”

“An important and sobering meeting was held today with European ambassadors and members of the Coalition against Torture to discuss the recent Khujand prison riot.

“It is important for the government to conduct a thorough investigation, follow the rule of law, and protect the human rights of prisoners and their families,” U.S. diplomat noted in the Facebook post.

Meanwhile, some media reports say the warden of the Khujand penal high-security colony 3/3, Faizullo Safarzod, has been arrested after the deadly riot.

Citing Tajik law enforcement sources, Radio Liberty’s Tajik Service reports that Faizullo Safarzod was detained the day before and charged with negligence and abuse of power.

He is reportedly accused of failing to inform Tajikistan's Penitentiary Service in a timely fashion about the riot after it erupted late on November 7.

Recall, the riot broke out at a high-security penal colony 3/3 in the northern city of Khujand late on November 7. According to some sources, several inmates convicted of religious extremism and terrorism organized the riot at the Khujand high-security penal colony. They were reportedly armed with cold steels and one of them managed to disarm a guard, took his assault rifle and began shooting at guards and wardens.

It is not clear what sparked the riot that was suppressed by riot police sent to the prison.

Amaq news agency, which is linked to the Islamic State (IS) terror group, reported on November 8 that one of IS fighters “is responsible for the attack in Tajikistan that sparked a prison riot.”

Some media outlets have dwelled on the fact that the Khujand high-security penal colony has been used to hold people convicted on charges of belonging to radical religious organizations.

According to some media outlets, 25 people, including two prison guards, were killed in violence.

Meanwhile, Tajik law enforcement officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told RFE/RL’s Tajik Service, locally known as Radio Ozodi earlier this month that the prison riot left at least 52 people, including two prison guards, dead.

Almost two weeks after the violence, the Tajik authorities have issued no public statements on the incident.