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Associates Of Fugitive Tajik Businessman Jailed

KHUJAND -- A court in Dushanbe has sentenced 31 associates of a fugitive Tajik businessman to long prison terms, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Supreme Court Judge Nur Nurov told RFE/RL that Nizomkhon Juraev and his two brothers, Fakhriddin and Tolib, were involved in organizing the assassination of former Deputy Prosecutor-General Tolib Boboev 10 years ago.

Juraev and his associates were also charged with setting up an organized criminal group, tax evasion, and a number of financial crimes.

However, lawyers of the convicted businessmen and their relatives say that all the charges are baseless, and the Tajik authorities are simply using them to seize the property and businesses of Juraev and his colleagues.

Hamdam Vahhobov, whose brother Ghanijon was sentenced to 21 years in prison, told RFE/RL that his brother was working in Juraev's company and had nothing to do with criminal activities.

Nizomkhon Juraev was a successful businessman who owned a chemical plant and an distillery in the northern Sughd province.

In 2007 investigations were launched into his financial activities, and later in 2008 he was officially accused of ordering Boboev's assassination.

He left the country before his arrest warrant was issued. Tajik authorities say Juraev might be in hiding in the United Arab Emirates.