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Tajik Prosecutor-General's Antigraft Efforts Target Predecessor's Son

  • Farangis Najibullah

Prosecutor-General Sherkhon Salimzoda (left) and former Tajik Prosecutor-General Bobojon Bobokhonov (collage from file photos)

Prosecutor-General Sherkhon Salimzoda (left) and former Tajik Prosecutor-General Bobojon Bobokhonov (collage from file photos)

The son of former Tajik Prosecutor-General Bobojon Bobokhonov has been arrested on corruption charges, the latest in a string of moves initiated against current or former judicial officials by Bobokhonov's successor.

The arrest of Faizullo Bobokhonov, a former regional prosecutor, on July 23 in Dushanbe follows the dismissal of 15 regional prosecutors amid graft allegations over the past six months.

The arrest is seen as the climax of an anticorruption effort orchestrated by Prosecutor-General Sherkhon Salimzoda, who in his previous capacity as head of the state anticorruption agency had a longstanding feud with his predecessor as prosecutor-general.

Faizullo Bobokhonov was charged with being an accomplice in a bribe-taking incident involving $20,000 while serving as chief prosecutor of Hisor, a suburban district outside the capital. Bobokhonov was dismissed from that position earlier this year, shortly after his influential father retired as prosecutor-general after serving for 10 years.

Prosecutors' Housecleaning

Prosecutor-General Salimzoda told reporters last week that he was determined to cleanse the judicial system of "elements involved in corruption."

"We dismissed prosecutors whose subordinates were arrested in connection with corrupt activities, including taking bribes," Salimzoda said. "The list includes the prosecutors of Vose and Jillikul districts and a deputy prosecutor of Khatlon province, whose subordinates were arrested on corruption charges, including taking bribes in the amount of $500 to $6,000."

Listed among 20 most corrupt countries in the world by the Transparency International, Tajikistan's government has come under immense criticism and pressure by international donors to launch an effective anticorruption campaign.

Domestically, too, the state has come under criticism from citizens over rampant bribery, particularly among law-enforcement agencies and the judicial system.

In May 2007, President Emomali Rahmon created a special anticorruption agency. Salimzoda, a former Dushanbe city prosecutor and parliament member who enjoyed a reputation as an assertive antigraft campaigner, was placed in charge of the new state agency.

Long-Standing Feud

Soon after his appointment, Salimzoda began to focus on the Prosecutor-General's office headed by Bobojon Bobokhonov, accusing prosecutors of protecting corrupt officials and dismissing high-profile criminal cases in return for bribes.

The anticorruption agency has detained several regional prosecutors and their deputies on bribery charges. Prior to Bobokhonov's arrest, the most high-profile were the detentions in 2009 of the prosecutor of Muminobod district and deputy prosecutor of Vose district, both in the southern Khatlon Province.

The agency claimed both were caught "red-handed" while accepting bribes, but lacked the authority to detain suspects for longer than three days.

In both cases the Prosecutor-General's Office, then headed by Bobojon Bobokhonov, succeeded in dismissing both cases and setting the suspects free.

Special Treatment

Salimzoda subsequently convinced parliament to change the law to allow decisions on the extension and modification of detention periods to fall exclusively to the courts.

According to anticorruption agency sources, the agency since its establishment has managed to bring to justice two prosecutors, four judges, and some 30 others within judicial system. Nearly 100 law-enforcement officers and dozens of other officials have also been slapped with corruption charges.

The agency's activities riled Bobojon Bobokhonov, who as prosecutor-general publicly accused the anticorruption body of "provocations" against prosecutors and the police.

Bobojon Bobokhonov's office also accused the anticorruption agency itself of involvement in graft, and opened several criminal cases on bribery charges against the agency's employees.

Clearing The Air Or Settling A Score?

Claims and counterclaims between the two bodies and the rumored feud between their former heads were well-documented in local media.

In 2009, Salimzoda was transferred from his post as the head of the anticorruption agency, and was appointed as a presidential adviser.

In January 2010, Bobokhonov unexpectedly retired from the prosecutor-general's post, fueling rumors that he had done so under pressure.

Days later, Salimzoda was appointed as prosecutor-general.

The dismissal of regional prosecutors began shortly after Salimzoda's appointment.

Many Tajiks have welcomed the prosecutors' removals, while others suspect revenge could be at play, noting that many were close associates of the former prosecutor-general.

RFE/RL's Tajik Service contributed to this report