Dushanbe is awaiting a Russian decision on the possible extradition of Nizomkhon Juraev, a wealthy Tajik businessman on the run since 2007 who was just arrested in the Khamovniki district of Moscow.
Juraev was picked up by Moscow police on August 27.
The former owner of a chemical plant and a distillery in the small city of Isfara in the northern Sughd province, he was also a member of the provincial parliament.
But those are his legitimate credentials. The government of Tajikistan, which began an investigation into Juraev and his associates' financial activities between 1998 and 2007, believe that he and members of a criminal group he reputedly founded embezzled money; evaded taxes; forged documents; bribed officials; used intimidation to acquire property and business assets; and were responsible for the assassination of the Deputy Prosecutor-General Tolib Boboev in 1999. Nizomkhon's brothers, Tolib and Fakhriddin Juraev, were among 31 family members and associates arrested and tried in 2009. Both brothers are now serving sentences for their apparent involvement in the assassination of Boboev, among 29 defendants who were given jail terms
of 10-25 years.
Some reports had suggested that Juraev was in Dubai when he was added to Interpol's wanted list in April.
But Tajik journalist Nematullo Mirsaidov insists Juraev has been in Russia for the past two years -- "Arresting a person that is living freely in Russia is very easy," he says -- begging the question of why it would have taken Russian authorities so long to nab the fugitive. Mirsaidov thinks he has an answer. He suggests that with the speculated involvement of Russia in the recent escape
of 25 prisoners from a Tajik detention center, Russia's Interior Ministry has been squeezed into a pledge to deliver escapees registered on a new wanted list sent by angry Tajik authorities
. Nizomkhon Juraev's name is reportedly on that list.
The Isfara Case, as it is known, concluded in June 2009 with 29 people receiving sentences of 10 to 25 years. All defendants were tried as members of an organized crime group and so even those implicated in financial crimes were tried in tandem with those accused of murder, and sentenced accordingly.
Relatives of the condemned have spoken out against what they say are overly harsh sentences for the associates and other family members. Hamdam Vahhobov, whose brother was sentenced to 21 years in prison although prosecutors sought just seven years, told RFE/RL that his brother was merely an employee at Juraev's company and had nothing to do with any criminal activity. Vahhobov told Dushanbe's "Asia-Plus" in an article
published in August 2009 that "no evidence was presented that he was a member of Juraev's illegal group."
Even Tajik Prosecutor-General Bobojon Bobokhonov had announced at a press conference one month earlier that the sentences were "illegal and unjust" and demanded a review of the verdicts.
There has since been no progress in either the Isfara Case appeals or in apprehending the 25 escaped Tajik prisoners -- either of which could shed some light on Juraev's alleged criminal activities and arrest, the Tajik government's motives, and the extent of possible Russian involvement in the jailbreak.
-- Ella Mitchell