Tajik opposition figure shot dead in Turkey

AP News
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Posted: Mar 06, 2015 7:43 AM

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A businessman and opposition figure from the former Soviet nation of Tajikistan has been killed with a single shot to the head in Istanbul after dining with a friend, Turkish media reports said Friday.

Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency said Umarali Kuvvatov was killed by the friend in the street in Istanbul's Fatih district late Thursday after the two got into an argument. The private Dogan news agency, however, said Kuvvatov was shot by an unknown person.

Dogan said Kuvvatov's wife and children were taken to a hospital by ambulance suffering from shock.

Radio Ozodi, the Tajik service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, cited its own sources as saying Turkish police had detained a Kuvvatov acquaintance in connection with the killing.

Police in Istanbul have not commented on the reports.

Kuvvatov was formerly in President Emomali Rakhmon's inner circle, but fell out of favor in 2012 and fled Tajikistan.

He channeled his anti-government activities through Group-24, a movement that existed largely online and loosely united disparate critics of Rakhmon's regime.

Tajikistan's government in January asked for Ankara to extradite Kuvvatov so that he could face charges of fraud and seeking to provoke political unrest.

He had been detained and subsequently released by authorities in Istanbul in December and in Dubai in late 2012.

Despite his group's apparently limited public reach, Tajikistan's most senior court in October ruled that it should be deemed extremist, ranking it alongside radical Islamist organizations as a national threat.

Tajikistan has long clamped down on opposition to the government.

The country held elections Sunday that saw the ruling People's Democratic Party extend its grip over the 63-member rubber-stamp parliament.

In an interview Wednesday with independent Tajik news site Asia-Plus, Kuvvatov condemned the election, saying it deprived the people of Tajikistan of choice.

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Associated Press Writer Peter Leonard in Kiev, Ukraine, contributed.