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Tajik Book Sellers Blame Police For Arson Attacks

Bookshop owners in southern Tajikistan are accusing police of deliberately setting fire to four sales kiosks this week.

Police in the town of Qurgon-teppa were reluctant to comment on the incidents to RFE/RL's Tajik Service, other than to say that they were not investigating the December 28-29 torchings.

The shopkeepers claim that local authorities, especially police, have been demanding that they relocate from their stalls to more expensive, state-owned retail space.

One of the shop owners, Gulchehra, quoted a police officer as saying the "ugly little bookstores are ruining the downtown view."

The shopkeepers say they'd sent a letter of protest to local authorities about past police harassment but have heard nothing.

Gulchehra charged simply: "The arson attack was officials' response to our letter."

-- Farangis Najibullah

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