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KULOB, Tajikistan -- A regional leader of Tajikistan's Islamic Renaissance Party has been charged with human trafficking, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Abdufattoh Abdukholiqov is the head of the Islamic Renaissance Party in the Vose district of Tajikistan's southern Khatlon Province.

Davlat Najmiddinov, who heads the anti-organized-crime department in the province's Kulob district, told RFE/RL that Abdukholiqov and his accomplice paid $500 to the mother of a 16-year-old girl whom they planned to sell to someone in Russia.

Najmiddinov said the girl was found at Abdukholiqov's house last month with travel documents and an air ticket from Dushanbe to the Russian city of Yekaterinburg.

But Abdukholiqov told RFE/RL that the girl was his relative and that he was trying to help her by arranging her marriage in Russia.

Abdukholiqov added that the $500 was the bride price, which should be paid to any Muslim girl by her
future husband.

Najmiddinov rejected Abdukholiqov's explanation. He said that the girl's sister was sold to a Tajik businessman in Kazakhstan and lived there as his second wife, but the authorities sent her back to Tajikistan.

The girls' mother, Toji Valieva, told RFE/RL that her husband has spent 28 years in prison and that it was not easy to feed and raise seven children on her own.

She said she thought marrying her daughters at a young age was preferable to risking an uncertain future for them.

The Islamic Renaissance Party has not yet commented on the allegations against Abdukholiqov.
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