Charges of grave crimes including terrorism and brigandage were pressed against a prominent Tajik oppositionist, leader of the Democratic Party of Tajikistan.
Makhmadruzi Iskandarov's saga resembles a mystery novel. Charges of terrorism, brigandage, dereliction of duty, forgery, illegal possession of arms, illegal bodyguards, abuse of power, and embezzlement were pressed against Iskandarov last autumn. The authorities, however, failed to arrest him in Tajikistan at once.
Iskandarov turned up in Moscow where he was arrested on the request from the Tajik Prosecutor General's Office in December. Russian law enforcement agencies found no reasons for his extradition, however, and Iskandarov was released from detention cell on April 3, 2005. Iskandarov even sent a letter of appreciation to the president of Russia.
This state of affairs did not last. The opposition leader was abducted from the town of Korolev near Moscow on April 15. Ten days later Tajik Prosecutor General Bobodzhon Bobokhonov announced that Iskandarov had been arrested in Dushanbe on April 22 and put into a detention cell of the State Security Ministry.
Iskandarov's trial began last week. The defendant looked cheerful to camera crews (journalists were granted permission to attend the hearing). Prosecution was the first to address judges. Mekhrodzh Khakimov of the Prosecutor General's Office presented the bill of indictment. Not everything went smoothly. Khakimov said for example that the defendant had been arrested in Russia with a forged Russian passport. It collided with Bobokhonov's statement to the effect that the arrest had been made in Dushanbe.
In fact, the prosecution made a mess even of the forged passport episode. It does have Iskandarov's photo but he himself never put his signature on the document. It means that every expertise will inevitably proclaim the signature forged. In fact, whoever arranged all of that did not even bother to invent a plausible Russian name for Iskandarov. The passport with his photo was forged with the unlikely name of Gennadi Nikolayevich Beelinov. "Why not Megaphonov?" Dododzhon Atovulloyev, Chairman of the Forum of Democratic Forces of Central Asia, sneered. [Beeline and Megaphone are two major operators in the market of cell communications in Russia - Tr.]
Iskandarov's lawyers asked the Supreme Court to give them time to get acquainted with new materials. The Supreme Court obliged despite protestations from the Prosecutor General's Office.
The next hearing took place on Wednesday. It began with a scandal. Iskandarov told judges that his confession the prosecution was referring to had been obtained under torture. The defendant said that he had been tortured and deprived of food and sleep in the detention cell. Witnesses the prosecution had counted on either never turned up or denounced their former testimony. Atovulloyev is convinced, however, that the outcome is clear and conviction of the leader of the Democratic Party of Tajikistan is just a matter of time.
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