Two men attacked a Tajik political asylum seeker in Lithuania’s Kaunas on March 16. Human Rights Watch said it was a politically-motivated attack.
The victim, Ilhomjon Yakubov, is the former head of the opposition Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) in Tajikistan’s Sughd Region, according to HRW.
The party was banned in 2015 by the authoritarian Tajik government. Yakubov received political asylum in Lithuania the same year.
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According to HRW, an “old friend” of Yakubov picked him up. Another man was inside the car, and once Yakubov sensed the danger, he asked to be let out.
The driver refused, locked the doors and sped ahead, according to HRW. The other man, born in 1993 according to the Lithuanian police, threatened to kill Yakubov and proceeded to hit him.
Meet Ilhomjon Yakubov, an exiled Tajik activist. Two men brutally attacked and injured him this week in Kaunas, Lithuania. Authorities should ensure his safety, bring the two perpetrators to justice, determine who ordered this politically motivated attack https://t.co/6PPJNGjmxa pic.twitter.com/xo0YRvUl0h— Vladislav Lobanov (@vladlobanoff) March 19, 2020
“Both of them got out of the car and proceeded with beatings while I was laying on the ground. I thought they would put me back to the car, but a police car approached us,” Yakubov told HRW.
Police in Kaunas confirmed to LRT.lt that a "foreign citizen" was detained for attacking Yakubov and a pre-trial investigation has been launched.
On March 18, the police also questioned Yakubov’s former friend who was driving the car, according to HRW.
According to the human rights watchdog, Yakubov was previously threatened online, and “dozens of articles attacking Yukubov have been published on a website of a state-run newspaper Khakikati Sugd (Sughd Truth)”.
The HRW said the attack was therefore politically motivated and called on Lithuanian authorities to bring those responsible to justice.