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Embattled Afghan Vice President Dostum Leaves For Turkey

Afghan Vice President Abdul Rahid Dostum

Afghan officials say controversial Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum has left the country amid claims that he ordered his men to abduct, beat, and rape a political rival last year.

Yaseen Khamosh, a media adviser to Dostum, told RFE/RL late on May 19 that Dostum had gone to Turkey for medical reasons.

Later, Bashid Ahmad Tayanj, an Afghan parliament member and the spokesman for Dostum's Junbish Party, said on Ayna TV that Dostum was on a flight to Turkey but would return after receiving medical treatment.

In a statement, presidential spokesman Shah Hussain Murtazawi said he wished Dostum "good health."

No details about Dostum's health were available.

The reports of Dostum's flight from Afghanistan come amid unresolved accusations that men loyal to him were involved in the kidnapping and abuse of a political rival last year.

The charges led to domestic and international calls for an investigation and for Dostum to be prosecuted.

The Afghan government did not comment on Dostum's future or if his departure was related to his alleged involvement in the abduction.

Tayanj dismissed speculation on social-media sites that Dostum was going into exile.

"General Dostum never leaves the country but remains alongside his people during difficult times," Tayanj said.

Authorities have launched an investigation into the 2016 detention of Ahmad Ishchi, who said he was abducted by Dostum's militia, beaten, and sexually abused before being released after several days.

But the powerful ethnic Uzbek warlord has evaded questioning and has not been charged with any offense.

"It's a stunning example of what has become standard practice in Afghanistan, not just for Dostum but for anyone in a position of power: having promised to deliver justice the government has shown itself ultimately unwilling to do so," says Patricia Gossman, Afghanistan researcher with New York-based Human Rights Watch.

In 2008, Dostum went into exile in Turkey amid similar allegations that his militia had abducted, beaten and sexually assaulted a political rival.

President Ashraf Ghani was heavily criticized when he chose Dostum to be his vice president ahead of the 2014 presidential election that he won.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Stanikzai Safiullah