The fugitive Tajik opposition leader Umarali Kuvvatov has been shot dead in Istanbul, Turkey. He was wanted by Dushanbe on fraud charges that were, as he said, politically motivated. Kuvvatov was an outspoken critic of current Tajik President Imomali Rakhmon. He has recently accused Rakhmon of corruption and nepotism.
Kuvvatov was murdered when he and his family fell ill after a dinner. While waiting outside for the ambulance, an unidentified attacker fired a single shot to the head of Kuvvatov. The ambulance crew pronounced him dead at the scene.
Once, Umarali Kuvvatov had strong bonds with the current Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, but they turned against each other due to business conflicts.
Opposition organization Group 24 was founded by Kuvvatov from abroad. In October 2014, the political organization came under major pressure of the Tajik government, who wanted to tighten their grip on the former Soviet republic. Kuvvatov called for organizing a protest in Dushanbe against President Rahmon. However, a day before the planned gathering, the court ruled ‘Group 24’ as being an extremist organization, banning them from the political scene. At least two Tajik members of Kuvvatov’s party were sentenced to lengthy prison terms, while others are still awaiting their sentence.
As of January, the Tajik government formally requested his extradition. Kuvvatov was wanted for a number of crimes, including extremism, economic crimes and hostage-taking. However, Turkey did not respond to the request.
Recently, Kuvvatov had told the media that he feared to be assassinated due to his critical remarks on the recent Tajik parliamentary elections. The elections took place four days ago, fierily criticized by international observers. Rahmon’s party has won most of the votes, leaving the opposition without a single seat. Human rights organizations accuse the Tajik regime of silencing opponents and abusing political prisoners.
By Elske Idzenga