Tajikistan has demanded the extradition of seven citizens allegedly belonging to a banned political opposition group who are currently being held in detention in Russia.
The seven men are among a total of ten members from Tajik opposition Group 24 who were arrested in Russia within the past few months.
According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), the Tajik Interior Ministry said it expects Russia to extradite the men as they were all arrested upon the Tajik Government’s request.
The extradition request comes just a week after Moldovan authorities detained Sobir Veliyev, the deputy leader of Group 24, in the capital Chisinau as he was attempting to travel to Istanbul, Turkey.
Veliyev, who until recently had been residing in Kyrgyzstan, was reportedly arrested on the request of the Tajik government, which banned the organisation in October last year.
Many opposition activists from the group have been detained since the Supreme Court of Tajikistan labeled Group 24 an "extremist" group they tried to organise mass anti-government protests.
Tajik Chief Prosecutor’s Office claimed that Group 24's objective was to seize power in an unconstitutional manner, a charge the group said was politically motivated.
Local media reported that Moldova is currently waiting for the necessary documentation in order to extradite Veliyev back to Tajikistan.
Group 24 leader Sharofiddin Gadoyev, however, has called on the Moldovan government to provide assistance to Veliyev, citing threats to his life, Kyrgyz news agency AKIPress reported.
The group’s previous leader, Umarali Kuvvatov, was shot dead in Istanbul’s Fatih district in March. Kuvvatov was wanted by the Tajik authorities for a number of crimes, including extremism, economic crimes and hostage-taking.
In another case, Tajik youth activist Maksud Ibragimov was stabbed six times in Moscow last November. He had previously been arrested by Russian authorities after Tajikistan also requested his extradition.
Ibragimov was later reportedly kidnapped by unidentified men, forced onto a plane to Tajikistan and tortured into saying he arrived in the country voluntary before finally being sentenced in July.
St. Petersburg resident Shabnam Khudoydodova, who is also a member of Group 24, was likewise arrested in the Belarusian city of Brest. She escaped to seek refuge in the UN refugee agency in Minsk when she learned of plans to extradite her back to Tajikistan.
“Tajikistan’s opposition is under serious attack,” Williamson said.
“Other governments shouldn’t be complicit in their crackdown or violate their clear cut and absolute obligations under international law,” he added.