Australian National University academics have expressed their support for a PhD student from Canada who has been detained in Tajikistan.
Alexander Sodiqov, from the University of Toronto, was detained on 16 June on suspicion of espionage by the State Committee for National Security in Tajikistan.
Concerned scholars from the ANU Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies (CAIS) have urged authorities in Tajikistan to treat Sodiqov fairly, and expressed solidarity with his family and colleagues.
“Government officials are very sensitive about any foreign presence in the restive region of Badakhshan in the east of the country,” said Dr Kirill Nourzhanov from CAIS.
“The fact that Sodiqov, a Tajikistani national, conducted research there on behalf of a western university must have contributed to their suspicions.”
Sodiqov was arrested while conducting an interview with an opposition politician in the eastern part of the country.
He has been charged under Article 305 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Tajikistan, which carries the penalty of between 12 and 20 years in prison for espionage and high treason.
Sodiqov was carrying out research for a project funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council, called Rising Powers and Conflict Management in Central Asia which involves the Universities of Exeter and Newcastle in the UK.
The EU mission in Tajikistan, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Amnesty International, Freedom House, and Human Rights Watch have all issued statements expressing concern over Sodiqov's detention.