Muhammadi Rahmatullo, who in the past was considered one of the leaders of the Salafiya religious movement banned in Tajikistan, was sentenced by the Ismoili Somoni district court of Dushanbe to 8 years in prison. The priest was already sentenced to 8 years in 2016, but he was released early under an amnesty.
Yusuf Muharramov, brother of Muhammadi Rahmatullo, told Radio Ozodi on March 23 that the cleric had been convicted under Art. 307 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Tajikistan, but the details are unknown to him. Article 307 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Tajikistan consists of numerous clauses and annexes that provide for punishment, in particular, for public calls for extremist activities, the organization of an extremist community. Our attempts to find out the details of the verdict were unsuccessful.
“I participated in two court hearings, and was present at the sentencing. There were a lot of people in the courtroom, for which my brother was sentenced, I still did not understand. Together with him, another 10-12 people were convicted, they were given from seven to ten years in prison … It’s better to ask his wife, she participated in all court sessions, ”said Yusuf Muharramov.
Correspondents of Radio Ozodi on March 23 visited the home of Muhammadi Rahmatullo, but relatives of the clergyman refused to communicate.
The arrest of Muhammadi Rahmatullo by state security officers was reported by his relatives in November last year. Yusuf Muharramov, the brother of the clergyman, then said that on November 2, Muhammadi was invited to a conversation at the National Security Committee of Tajikistan. Some time later, according to him, employees of the State Committee for National Security called the son of Muhammadi Rakhmatullo and said that the cleric had been detained.
“As far as I know, the brother was arrested because of some conversation on a religious topic or because of some kind of sermon. Nothing more is known to us. Muhammadi did not work anywhere, he does not even have a passport. He didn’t go to the mosque, he spent almost all his time at home, and only occasionally went out,” Yusuf Muharramov added then.
According to relatives of the priest, in response to a question about the reasons for the detention, they were told that, according to the court decision, Muhammadi Rahmatullo did not have the right to preach, but he continued to do so. Relatives of the clergyman do not agree with this accusation and claim that he avoided talking on sensitive religious topics.
Muhammadi Rahmatullo was sentenced to 8 years in prison in 2016 on charges of organizing an extremist community. He left the colony at the end of the summer of 2021 ahead of schedule under an amnesty.
50-year-old Muhammadi Rahmatullo in 2011, after four years of study at the Faculty of Sharia of the International Islamic University in Islamabad, returned to his homeland. The priest is the father of 4 children. In the mid-2000s, at the peak of the Salafiya movement in Tajikistan, Muhammadi Rahmatullo often entered into discussions with representatives of the traditional clergy on behalf of the local Salafis, who stood up for true, from their point of view, Islam, and differed from other Muslim believers a peculiar performance of prayer and their form of clothing – they wore cropped trousers.
In 2009, the Salafiya religious movement was outlawed in Tajikistan. The decision to ban was made by the Supreme Court on the basis of a lawsuit filed by the General Prosecutor’s Office of Tajikistan – in order to protect the constitutional order, strengthen the country’s national security and prevent incitement of inter-confessional hatred. In December 2014, after many Tajik Salafists moved to Syria and joined the ranks of the Islamic State militants, the Supreme Court of Tajikistan recognized the Salafi movement as extremist.