08/23/2018, 09.29
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Court frees independent journalist, but confirms 'sentence'

He had written an open letter to the authorities to denounce the corruption of some officials. Arrested last year, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison in July. Now he will have to pay a fine and carry out community service. First time for Tajik court to release a dissident, after months of international campaigns and pressure. He will appeal again: "I have not committed any crime".

Dushanbe (AsiaNews / Agencies) - For the first time, a court in Tajikistan has released an independent journalist, arrested for political reasons. Yesterday, the Regional Court of Sughd released Khayrullo Mirsaidov to the tears of joy of those waiting for him outside. However his release also had a sour note after the judge confirmed the sentence against him.

In November of last year, Khayrullo Mirsaidov had written an open letter to the president and to the attorney general of Tajikistan, as well as to the head of the Soghd region, accusing the officials of the city of Khujand of corruption. Arrested on December 5, Mirsaidov was sentenced to 12 years in jail by the judicial authorities of Khujand last month. The accusation is of exploitation of state funds, falsification of documents and false testimony. At yesterday's hearing on appeal, the Regional Court reduced the sentence to a fine of 80,000 Somoni (731 euros) and a period of community service. Mirsaidov is free, although still "guilty" of the charges against him.

The release follows months of heated campaign and pressure from the international community, including a joint declaration by the embassies of the United Kingdom, Germany, France and the US together with the European Union delegation. Online, activists and journalists have launched the hashtag #FreeKhayrulloMirsaidov (in these hours changed to #KhayrulloMirsaidovisFree), also used by the British ambassador in Dushanbe.

Now, the activists themselves welcome his release with ambivalent feelings, due to the maintenance of the charge against him. Mirsaidov himself is dissatisfied with the sentence, which will make it difficult for him to work and earn a living. "According to the Courts - he told Radio Free Europe - I am still considered a criminal, even if I have not committed any crime". He is determined to once again appeal to the High Courts and continue to write investigative articles.

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