Russian Soldiers Accused Of Murdering Tajik Taxi Driver Sent To Moscow
Two Russian soldiers accused of killing a taxi driver in Tajikistan have been sent to Moscow for psychological testing. And while the commander of the Russian military base has personally apologized to the family of the victim, his relatives are concerned that the suspects' return to Russia may mean they won't face justice in Tajikistan.
Rahimjon Teshaboev, a 36-year-old taxi driver, was killed in August; his body was discovered near a lake with his throat slashed. Police arrested two suspects, both soldiers at the Russian military base, Fyodor Basimov and Ildar Sakhapov.
An unnamed source told the Tajik service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that: "They committed the crime according to a prearranged plan after ... Basimov became indebted to Teshaboev, owing him 50,000 rubles [about $1,300], but couldn't repay the money. Consulting with his comrade Ildar, they tried to 'solve the problem' August 16. But the first time they didn't succeed, and on August 18 they offered Teshaboev 'to go fishing.' Next to a lake at the village of Chimtep, Fyodor held the driver while Ildar cut his throat."
(It's perhaps worth noting that this story seems to have not been heavily covered in either the Russian or Tajikistan press, but that BBC Russian and RFE/RL have been leading the coverage.)
Last week, relatives of the victim told RFE/RL that they were told that the two suspects are being transferred to Moscow for psychological tests. "Relatives fear that Basimov and Sakhapov can in this way escape criminal prosecution," the service reported. But the commander of the base visited the family and personally apologized "in person and in writing."
After a lengthy negotiation, an agreement extending the base's presence until 2042 was ratified last year. The agreement apparently specifies "the status of the Russian military base personnel [and] its jurisdiction" but it's not clear what the agreement stipulates with respect to criminal jurisdiction when a Russian soldier commits a crime in Tajikistan.
Apart from the legal issue is the political one, and we'll see if the episode, as RFE/RL suggests, "could cause tension between Russians and Tajiks."
Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.
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