Condemning the arrest of Alex Sodiqov

Friday, June 20, 2014

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Tajikistan
His Excellency Mr. Farhod Salim
216 East 49th Street, 4th Floor
New York, N.Y. 10017

June 19, 2014

Dear Ambassador,

I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.

CJFE strongly condemns the detention of the Canadian University of Toronto student, Alex Sodiqov, in Tajikistan on June 16, 2014. The detention of the Global Voices author is unlawful and unwarranted. Sodiqov has reportedly been detained on the grounds of “subversion and espionage”. According to reports, Tajikistan's State Committee for National Security said Sodiqov had been detained as a result of suspicions that grew when Sodiquov met with civil society activist Alim Sherzamonov. Despite the purpose of the meeting being for academic research, Sodiqov was arbitrarily arrested, and later lost contact with his family and friends. Reportedly, Sodiqov’s flash drives and computers were confiscated by security during his detention.

Human Rights Watch reported that “Government officials refuse to confirm he is in custody and have not disclosed his whereabouts.” CJFE is extremely concerned about protecting Sodiqov’s safety and right to free expression.

The climate for free expression in Tajikistan has been historically condemnable. According to the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2014 World Press Freedom Index, Tajikistan is ranked 115th out of 180 countries on the list. RSF also reported that Tajikistan has been under “massive internet censorship” for a number of years. In 2012, Tajikistan underwent a surge of website blockages and digital surveillance. As injustices like the arbitrary detention of Sodiquov continue to occur, the Tajik government persistently acts in opposition to its citizens legal and human rights.

CJFE calls on the Tajik government for the immediate release of Sodiquov. It is imperative that the Tajik government respect Sodiquov’s right to free expression and academic research. More importantly, Sodiquov’s safety is of immediate and grave concern. The Tajik government must ensure that foreign and local journalists and academics are protected and can conduct their work safely. Moreover, unexplained arbitrary arrests must be condemned, and arrests must only take place with explanation and must be legitimately warranted.
We thank you for your attention and I look forward to your reply.
Yours sincerely,

Arnold Amber, CJFE President

Cc: Stephen Millar, Ambassador of Canada in Almaty
The Honourable John Baird, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs