U of T researcher reportedly detained in Tajikistan, accused of spying

Alex Sodiqov was reportedly detained in Tajikistan and accused of espionage. Alex Sodiqov / Twitter

TORONTO – A University of Toronto student has been detained in Tajikistan, accused of spying.

Alexander Sodiqov, a PhD student at the University of Toronto, was arrested and accused of “subversion and espionage” on behalf of a foreign country, according to a report on

The website reports the charge was linked to an email Sodiqov he allegedly sent June 10, though it’s unclear how authorities got the email or to whom it was addressed.

John Heathershaw, Sodiqov’s supervisor at the University of Exeter, issued a statement June 16 claiming Sodiqov was detained while conducting an interview with someone in Khorog, Tajikistan according to Eurasianet.

“It is now almost 20 hours since we have heard from Alexander Sodiqov who was apparently arrested while conducting research in Tajikistan. We do not know if he has been released or remains detained,” the statement read.  “He is a citizen of Tajikistan who is a PhD student at the University of Toronto and ordinarily resident in Canada.”

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Sodiqov has reportedly not had contact with his lawyer, colleagues or family since his detention June 14.

Sodiqov was in Tajikistan as part of a research project with the University of Exeter entitled “Rising Powers and Conflict Management in Central Asia.”

The project, according to the University’s website, aims to explain the “reasons for and the consequences of the failure of Western approaches to conflict management to gain traction in post-Soviet Central Asia.”

Sodiqov was active online, writing regularly about Tajikistan politics on Global Voices. His two most recent posts on the website are about a man being arrested for insulting the Tajik president on Facebook and a longer story about the mayor of Dushanbe, Tajikistan banning rap and rock music, claiming the music doesn’t conform to the “national culture.”

The University of Toronto issued a statement urging Tajikistan authorities to respect student’s rights; academics have been tweeting with the hashtag #FreeAlexSodiqov.

And dozens of academics, including several from Canadian universities, issued a statement Wednesday saying they’re “deeply concerned” for Sodiqov.

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“As scholars of Central Asian affairs, we are deeply concerned about the safety of Mr. Sodiqov and his family and strongly encourage the authorities in Tajikistan to ensure the full protection of Mr. Sodiqov’s and his family’s rights,” the statement reads.

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