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'Missing' Tajik Opposition Leader Reportedly Arrested

Dushanbe, 26 April 2005 (RFE/RL) --Tajikistan's prosecutor-general, Bobojhon Bobokhonov, announced today that Tajik security services have taken custody of Makhmadruzi Iskandarov, leader of the opposition Democratic Party of Tajikistan.

Russian authorities detained Iskandarov in December at the request of Tajikistan but released him earlier this month, saying there was insufficient evidence to extradite him.

Last week, his political party released a statement in the Tajik capital Dushanbe saying that Iskanderov had disappeared. There was no further word of his whereabouts until Bobokhonov's announcement at a news conference today. The prosecutor said authorities arrested Iskandarov in Dushanbe.

"Makhmadruzi Iskandarov has been detained," Bobokhonov said. "He is at a pretrial detention facility of the Ministry of National Security in Dushanbe. The investigation is under way."

Iskandarov recently told RFE/RL that he intends to run for president in the coming election. Authorities in Tajikistan have charged him with terrorism and other crimes. He denies the charges.

"Iskandarov's family has hired a lawyer today, and now he is engaged in the preparation of official defense documents," Rahmatulloh Valiev, deputy chairman of the Democratic Party of Tajikistan, said today in Bishkek. "After he has met with Mr. Iskandarov, the Democratic Party will decide what to do next. I think we will hold a meeting of the party's leadership and we will take appropriate steps. If it is necessary and if the laws in Tajikistan permit it, we will invite a lawyer from Russia too."

At the same news conference today, Prosecutor-General Bobokhonov said the Tajik Supreme Court has sentenced former Interior Minister Yakub Salimov to 15 years in prison for treason, planning a coup, and other charges.

(with additional wire reporting)