Rights Activists Criticize Arrest of Tajik Politician

A former Tajik presidential candidate was detained in Moscow on a Tajik arrest warrant Thursday, leading human rights activists to accuse the Russian government of aiding and abetting politically repressive regimes.


Davlat Khudonazarev, a former people's deputy of the Soviet Union who was once a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., was arrested at 11 a.m. Thursday at an OVIR office on 17 Ulitsa Petrovka when he came to claim documents he needed to travel overseas.


He was freed about 12 hours later, a human rights monitor told The Associated Press.


According to Colonel Alexander Murashov, the arresting officer, Khudonazarev was detained when his name showed up on a list of Tajik fugitives during a routine computer check. Murashov said Khudonazarev was wanted on criminal charges, but claimed he had no information on what the charges were.


A human rights monitor, Oleg Panfilov of the Glasnost Foundation, said Khudonazarev was released Thursday night, The Associated Press reported. He said police held Khudonazarev for about 12 hours, then let him go, saying his arrest was a "mistake.''


Other human rights activists were outraged at Khudonazarev's detention and said that Tajik charges against him were likely purely political in nature.


"The Tajik government has issued arrest warrants on nearly everyone in the opposition," said Rachel Denber of Helsinki Watch. "I don't know what they have specifically against Davlat, but I'll bet it's bogus. This speaks volumes about Russia's commitment to democracy."


"This is 100 percent political," said Alexei Simonov of the Human Rights group Glasnost. "And what's most repulsive is that Russia is acting as an accomplice in this."


Khudonazarev is well-known in Tajikistan as a filmmaker and as a politician who has repeatedly attempted to build coalitions between warring Tajik clans, particularly between his fellow Gordo-Badashkhanis and the ruling Kulyabis.


In November 1992, he brokered a cease-fire in the Tajik civil war and set up a short-lived coalition government between clans. Subsequently, however, the coalition collapsed and the hardline Moscow-backed Imomali Rakhmanov, a Kulyabi, came to power.


Khudonazarev, by all accounts, has not been in Tajikistan since 1993, when he left out of fear for his physical safety, as he was considered a key figure in the anti-Rakhmanov opposition. He went to the United States in 1993 and stayed there for two years, spending one year at the Woodrow Wilson Center as a fellow and another at the U.S. Institute of Peace.


Former colleagues in the United States said Khudonazarev is a gifted scholar and statesmen who found it hard to adjust to not being allowed into his own country.


"He is a very important figure who has sought peace throughout, and I believe that he will be in personal danger if he is returned to Tajikistan," said Peter Stavrakas of the Woodrow Wilson Center, who added that Khudonazarev had become a close friend of Senator Bill Bradley during his stay in Washington. "We find it very disturbing that the Russian government is acquiescing to the Tajiks in this."


Murashov said the ultimate decision of whether or not to extradite Khudonazarev rested with the General Prosecutor's Office. The prosecutor's office had no comment on the incident Thursday.


Extraditions of political fugitives from Russia to other CIS states have become more common in recent times. All in all, according to Denber, some 12 political fugitives have been extradited over the course of the last year.