A new head of the Sughd department for youth and sports affairs has been appointed.

The 34-year-old Mirzoqosim Karimzoda has been appointed to head the Sughd department for youth and sports affairs, replacing Olim Zohidzoda, an official source at the Committee for Youth and Sports Affairs under the Government of Tajikistan told Asia-Plus in an interview.

Prior to this, Mirzoqosim Karimzoda had served as head of the department for social development and public relations at the Khujand mayor’s office.  

Mirzoqosim Karimzoda graduated from the Tajik Institute of Business and Law in 2011.

His predecessor Olim Zohidzoda was relieved of his duties on February 7 this year.  

Recall, stand-up comedian Khairullo Mirsaidov, who is leader of the Khujand KVN team, publicly stated in November last year that Olim Zohidzoda demanded a US$1,000 bribe.

Mirsaidov failed to produce evidence to support his application against Zohidzoda.  Zohidzoda has filed a counterclaim against Mirsaidov accusing him of defamation.

Khairullo Mirsaidov was put under custody on December 5 and charges of misappropriate of state funds (Article 245, Part 4 of Tajikistan’s Penal Code), inciting national racial, regional or religious enmity (Article 189, Part 2), document forgery (Article 340, Part 1) and false denunciation (Article 346, Part 2) were officially brought against him on December 8.

The charges brought against Mirsaidov carry up to a total of 21 years in prison under Tajikistan’s Penal Code.

Mirsaidov is an independent journalist and a former correspondent of the Dushanbe-based Asia-Plus news agency and Germany's Deutsche Welle radio.

Mirsaidov’s case has drawn international attention, with the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) releasing a statement in December calling on Tajikistan to release Mirsaidov and drop all charges against him.

Amnesty International (AI) on January 25 urged the Tajik authorities to “immediately” release Khairullo Mirsaidov.”  Amnesty International said in its statement that “Khairullo Mirsaidov is a prisoner of conscience who is being punished solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression.”

In a statement delivered in Vienna, Ms. Michele Siders, Chargé d’Affaires, the U.S. Mission to the OSCE, noted on April 12 that the United States is deeply concerned by the April 5 extension of the pre-trial detention of journalist Khairullo Mirsaidov.  “We urge Tajikistan to ensure that Mr. Mirsaidov’s case is resolved promptly and in accordance with its obligations under the ICCPR to provide the required procedural and substantive protections in its criminal process, and to fully implement its obligations concerning freedom of expression, including by the media,” Ms. Siders said.