DUSHANBE (Reuters) - Tajikistan has meted out jail terms to 170 people convicted of complicity in an armed attempt by a deputy defence minister to topple President Imomali Rakhmon last September, the chief Tajik prosecutor said on Thursday.
“We gathered incontrovertible evidence proving their guilt,” Prosecutor-General Yusuf Rakhmon told a news conference. The group’s members were jailed for between one and 30 years for crimes including murder and membership of a criminal group, he said.
General Abdukhalim Nazarzoda, the rebellious deputy defence minister, was killed with 15 other plotters after a 12-day special operation by security forces following the attempted coup, which risked stoking fresh tension in the unstable ex-Soviet state that lived through a fierce civil war in 1992-97.
President Rakhmon, a 63-year-old former head of a Soviet cotton farm, who has been head of state since 1992 and Tajikistan’s president since 1994, keeps a tight lid on dissent.
He will be able to run for an unlimited number of terms after a series of constitutional amendments were backed in a referendum in May.
The authorities closed the Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) after they suppressed the rebellion, accusing it of backing the renegade general and leading IRPT leader Muhiddin Kabiri to flee abroad.
“Kabiri has been declared internationally wanted,” said prosecutor Rakhmon. “If he is detained, we will seek his extradition. He is accused of financing and organising the attempted military coup.”
Tajikistan, a Muslim nation of 8 million, lies on a drug trafficking route from neighbouring Afghanistan. Russia keeps a military base, Moscow’s largest deployment of land troops abroad, in the country which depends on Russian economic aid.
(This version of the story has been refiled to fixe garble in penultimate paragraph)
Reporting by Nazarali Pirnazarov; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Richard Balmforth