DUSHANBE - Tajikistan on Tuesday declared the country’s top opposition party a terrorist organisation after the government accused it of being behind bloody street battles that left dozens dead.

The volatile and impoverished Central Asian state’s supreme court accepted a request from the state prosecutor to close the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT).

The IRPT was the only registered faith-based party in the former Soviet Union and was one of the few potential sources of genuine opposition to President Emomali Rakhmon’s two-decade rule. The legal ban on the party is seen by analysts as the culmination of government efforts to sideline the IRPT, which was seen as an umbrella opposition bloc for moderate Muslims and secular-minded Tajiks.

“The aim of the IRPT was the overthrow of the constitutional order in Tajikistan,” said a statement from the Supreme Court, which has blacklisted it as a terrorist organisation.

“In the last five years, 45 members of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan have committed serious crimes.”

The ban comes after an upsurge in violence left more than 40 people in Tajikistan this month.

The authorities said that more than 40 people had died in violence that raged in the country for nearly two weeks by the time deputy defence minister-turned-rebel-leader Abduhalim Nazarzoda was killed in a military operation.

The government accused the party via state-controlled media of plotting the attacks in the capital Dushanbe and the provincial town of Vahdat for five years.

IRPT has denied links to the violence which saw at least 13 party activists detained by police earlier this month on charges the government has yet to officially clarify.

A lawyer representing the detained IRPT activists has also been arrested on fraud and forgery charges, the government said this week.

Many independent analysts have cast doubt on the allegations levelled at the party.

Human Rights Watch, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, and the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia this month accused the authorities of launching “a full-scale assault on dissent in Tajikistan.”

The party was viewed as having been effectively banned in August - before the outbreak of the violence - when authorities sealed off its headquarters and the justice ministry declared its activities “illegal”.