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MMA fighter deported from Russia faces 15-year jail term in Tajikistan for ‘provocative’ social media posts

Chorshanbe Chorshanbiev allegedly published “provocative” social media posts and was “engaged in inciting national and regional hatred,” as well as “inciting riots.”

An MMA fighter who was recently deported from the Russian Federation has been detained in his native Tajikistan on charges of inciting ethnic tension and insurrection.

Chorshanbe Chorshanbiev, a middleweight fighter with a 6-3 professional record, was deported last week from Russia after he was caught speeding by local police in Moscow. He was immediately taken into custody by Tajik authorities upon his arrival on Dec. 30, and has reportedly been charged with “inciting ethnic, racial, or religious hatred” as well as “public calls for violent change of the constitutional order.”

According to the Prosecutor General’s office, Chorshanbiev allegedly published “provocative” social media posts and was “engaged in inciting national and regional hatred,” as well as “inciting riots.” The fighter faces up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.

Chorshanbiev’s alleged crimes date back to January 2020, when he was engaged in a war of words with Russian fighter Nikita Solonin. When Solonin referred to Chorshanbiev as a “Tajik fighter,” Chorshanbiev appeared to take issue with that statement and revealed that he belongs to an ethnically distinct minority group from the Gorno-Badakhshan region of Tajikistan.

“What do you mean Tajik? I’m not Tajik. You want to see a Tajik, look in the mirror,” Chorshanbiev said at the time. “I am a Pamiri, written in big letters. Remember that forever.”

More than a year later, Chorshanbiev uploaded a second video apologizing for his comments after his initial video went viral. “I only had one intention: to tell the world that there is such a place and such a people [as Pamiris] in this world. What division can there be between us when we live on one land?” he said in July 2021.

However, in November 2021, Chorshanbiyev took to social media once more to voice his support for residents of the Gorno-Badakhshan region during a standoff with the central government that emerged after a police officer fatally shot a local resident.

“I urge you to stand up against injustice and against the unjust death of innocent people,” he said.

While Chorshanbiyev’s comments were enough to trigger criminal charges by Tajik authorities, critics suggest that his deportation from Russia was done at the request of the Tajik government