Tajikistan tightens laws against terrorism

By Nadin Bahrom


ISIL militants are seen just before explosion of air strike on Tilsehir hill at Yumurtalik village, in Sanliurfa province.[AFP]

DUSHANBE -- New laws in Tajikistan have given security agencies more power to fight terrorism and extremism.

Amendments to the country's national security law, which parliament approved in October, authorise the State Committee for National Security (GKNB) to enter suspects' residences without a court order.

In a speech to parliament October 19, GKNB Chairman Saimumin Yatimov explained the new powers the GKNB and other agencies were seeking.

The amendments enable security forces to use specialised vehicles and weapons during special operations and to enter residences in exceptional circumstances, such as the known presence of terrorists or hostages in those residences, without a court order.

In such situations "security forces have no time to obtain a search warrant", Yatimov said, according to the parliamentary press office. "Now they are authorised to act ... without one."

More permission for law enforcement

Parliament in October, including the lower chamber October 19, approved amendments to the Criminal Code as well.

The amendments mandate stricter punishment for terrorism-related crimes. Offences affected include treason, participation in illegal armed groups and justification of terrorism and extremism through mass media, First Deputy Prosecutor General Khotam Nazarzoda also told parliament, according to the parliamentary press office.

"This is all being done ... so that nothing occurs that could harm a large number of people," Mansur Umarov, deputy GKNB chairman, told parliament, according to the parliamentary press office.

Cracking down on phone card misuse

Authorities also are picking low-hanging fruit, such as cracking down on misuse of subscriber identity module (SIM) cell phone cards, Alibek Beknazarov, Tajik Communications Service spokesman, told Caravanserai.

Re-registration of SIM cards began November 1, he said.

"Some people .. give SIM cards to their friends and relatives," he said. "If someone commits a crime with a SIM card registered to someone else, it becomes difficult to identify the culprit."

"In recent years, many Afghan citizens have bought Tajik SIM cards," hesaid. "This measure will permit the creation of a [SIM card] database with Tajik citizens' data. If the user doesn't re-register the card in one year, we will de-activate it."

A new counter-terrorism centre and a new strategy

Tajikistan is planing to launch a Centre for the Fight against Terrorism, a source in Tajik law enforcement told Caravanserai on condition of anonymity.

The centre is supposed to co-ordinate the work of the Prosecutor General's Office, the Interior Ministry and the GKNB.

Meanwhile, the government is poised to approve a 2016-2020 strategy for fighting terrorism, the source told Caravanserai.

"The goal of this strategy is to define the main areas of focus ... in fighting violent extremism and radicalisation that leads to terrorism [VERLT]," the source said.

Its purposes are to "protect the constitutional system, public safety and human rights and freedoms from extremist threats", the source added.

"By the end of 2020, we intend to bolster Tajikistan's reputation as a country free of ... intolerance, extremism and radicalism," the source continued. "We plan to develop a scientific methodology for preventing VERLT."

Fighting terrorist propaganda methods

Terrorists are using deceptive means to encourage violence, Dushanbe-based security analyst Alisher Niyozov told Caravanserai.

"Internet propaganda includes video games that simulate terrorism," he said, adding that "virtual terrorism games ... prepare them to commit real attacks. The internet becomes a way to secretly recruit new members."

Another pipeline for terrorists is unvetted religious schools abroad, Dushanbe-based religious scholar Abdulo Mukhakik told Caravanserai.

Returning extremists with "hostility toward all peaceful Islamic movements" bear watching, he said, urging the government to "work with students who studied in questionable religious schools abroad".

All religions, particularly Islam, call for law-abiding behaviour, kindness and honour, scholars agree.

"That's why it's unfair to attribute involvement in radicalism, cruelty and ... other forms of violence to this humane religion," Mukhakik said. "Unfortunately in Tajikistan, [presently] we have no co-ordinated, purposeful work to prevent radicalisation and extremism."

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