DUSHANBE, June 22, 2014, Asia-Plus – Tajik lawyers say that Tajik researcher Alexander Sodiqov, who was contracted by the University of Exeter to work for the research project, Rising Powers and Conflict Management in Central Asia, could face up to 20 years in prison after being charged with high treason.

Alexander Sodiqov, who was detained by security officials in Khorog, the capital of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO), has reportedly been charged with high treason and spying.

“If convicted, Alexander Sodiqov could face twelve to twenty years in prison and confiscation of property,” Tajik lawyer, Ms. Fayziniso Vohidova, told Asia-Plus in an interview.

Meanwhile, Ms. Oynihol Bobonazarova, a pioneer of the human rights movement in Tajikistan the head of the "Perspektiva" social movement, notes that a researcher may work on issues of conflict resolution, “if he does not to interfere in state secrets.”  “Tajikistan has many interesting lessons about conflict resolution, and therefore, there is nothing suspicious in studying Tajikistan’s experience in resolving conflicts,” Ms. Bobonazarova said, noting that she is not well aware of academic researches of Alexander Sodiqov.

We will recall that Alexander Sodiqov was detained by security officers in Khorog on June 16 whilst conducting an interview with local civil society activist.   National news agency Khovar reported on June 17 that Alexander Sodiqov has been under investigation for espionage.

Dr. John Heathershaw Senior Lecturer in International Relations, Department of Politics, University of Exeter, made a statement on June 19 noting that Alexander Sodiqov was conducting research for the project, Rising Powers and Conflict Management in Central Asia.  “Our research project on the management and resolution of conflicts in Central Asia is one of several projects funded by the UK academic organization, the Economic and Social Research Council.  Since 2013 we have been conducting research in several countries and have not faced any problems.  We have case studies in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan and have also conducted research in the UK, Russia and China.  Alexander was employed by my university (University of Exeter) to work on our Tajikistan case study,” Dr. Heathershaw said.  

Many scholars of Central Asian affairs from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Tajikistan Russia, Japan, the Netherlands, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan on June 18 singed a statement regarding Alexander Sodiqov, in which they express concern about his fate.  As of June 19, 2014, the statement was signed by 236 scholars.