Tajikistan: Political Leader Jailed for Alleged Assassination Plot
A former regional leader and the relative of a former prime minister has been found guilty of setting up illegal militias, planning a coup d'etat, and corruption. Abdulaziz Khamidov, who headed the Leninabad province between 1994 and 1997, was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Khamidov was also found guilty of attempts to assassinate both his successor as regional governor and Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov.
Several alleged accomplices were sentenced to jail terms ranging from five to 25 years, according to the Tajik weekly Asia Plus.
Information on this case is scarce, and it has barely been covered in the Tajik press. The lack of information has left room for speculation that the imprisonment of Khamidov is part of a larger political purge, particularly as Khamidov is a relative of Abdumalik Abdullojanov, who challenged Rakhmonov in the 1999 presidential elections.
Abdullojanov, who served as the Tajik prime minister between 1992 and 1994, is originally from the Leninabad (Sugd) province in northern Tajikistan. This is the most developed region of the country, its industrial heartland, and also a fertile farming area. Leninabad also escaped the ravages of the civil war that raged between 1992 and 1997.
The relative peace of the region was disrupted only after the war, when, in 1998, a seasoned military commander, Makhmud Khudoiberdiyev, attempted to seize the city of Khujand, the province's administrative center. Khudoiberdiyev was allegedly based in Uzbekistan, and rumors at the time suggested that Abdullojanov and the Uzbek secret services were in some way implicated in the intrusion. The incident led to a serious deterioration in the two countries' relationship.
Abdullojanov himself was then brought to court, accused of money-laundering and stealing money while in office. Abdullojanov claimed he had inherited his capital from his grandfather.
Abdullojanov was certainly an influential political figure. Economically astute, he was also a polished politician and enjoyed strong support in his region. Seen as a third force in the mid-1990s, he never aligned himself with the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), the Islamically oriented group of parties opposed to the government of Rakhmonov. Abdullojanov's presidential challenge to Rakhmonov ended abruptly in 1999 when the State Election Commission struck his name from the list of candidates for alleged violations. Some sources suggest that Abdullojanov is now in Switzerland, others that he is hiding in Uzbekistan. Khamidov was arrested last year when he returned from Uzbekistan to attend the funeral of his sister.
According to the Associated Press, Tajik prosecutors believe that Abdullojanov was involved in the assassination attempt on Rakhmonov and in the $50 million corruption case that Khamidov has been found guilty of.
During the week, another senior political figure found himself in trouble with the law, as the Tajik Military Prosecutor's Office leveled charges of drug-trafficking, grand larceny, and desertion against former Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Kim. He stands accused of using a Defense Ministry helicopter to transport raw opium and heroin. The former military official went into hiding in Kazakhstan, but was then found and deported by the Kazakh police.
Whatever the political dimensions of these cases, corruption is certainly seen as a major problem in Tajikistan by the international community. In late May, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), together with the Open Society Institute (Soros Foundation), USAID, and other donors, hosted a conference in Tajikistan to look into issues relating to corruption and organized crime. Tajikistan has signed and ratified a number of international anti-corruption conventions and treaties, but law enforcement remains weak, partly because of a lack of technical support and a regional and international failure to pool information.