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Exiled Uzbek Political Activist Shot Dead In Russia

Fuad Rustamkhojaev in Berlin (undated)
Fuad Rustamkhojaev in Berlin (undated)
MOSCOW/PRAGUE -- An Uzbek businessman and opposition People's Movement of Uzbekistan (PMU) official has been shot dead in the western Russian city of Ivanovo, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.

Law enforcement officials in Ivanovo said Fuad Rustamkhojaev was shot several times in the head and chest late on September 24 in front of his home.

Russian investigators said they are considering several possible motives for the killing, including his business and political activities.

Witnesses said the attackers arrived in a taxi and began speaking in a loud manner in Uzbek with Rustamkhojaev before shooting him.

Rustamkhojaev, 38, had lived many years in Russia and gained Russian citizenship in 2005. He was a founder of the PMU and was active in the movement's congress held in Berlin in May.

In an address at the Berlin gathering he urged fellow Uzbeks to unite against the "dictatorship" in their homeland.

Muhammad Solih, chairman of the PMU, told RFE/RL that Rustamkhojaev had been approached about a month ago by officers from Uzbekistan's National Security Service who physically threatened him if he continued his political activities.

"We are outraged by this brutal murder," said Solih, who lives in exile in Norway. "[Uzbek President Islam] Karimov's regime should know that it did not break our will to fight against this criminal [govenment]. The death of our brother will unite our ranks and increase the sense of righteousness for our chosen path."

He added that "the criminal actions of the regime only hasten [Karimov's] fall. The Russian authorities should not allow the security forces of dictatorial regimes to act so brazenly in the territory of a sovereign state. We hope that the Russian government will control the murder investigation of a Russian citizen and inform the public about...this crime."

Rustamkhojaev was to be buried in Ivanovo on September 26. He is survived by his wife and two young daughters.

Other Uzbek opposition groups have joined with the People's Movement of Uzbekistan to try and oust Karimov through nonviolent protests like those that succeeded in toppling regimes in Egypt and Tunisia this year.

About 20 people representing the Erk opposition party, the Andijon -- Justice and Revival group, and the Tayanch organization, joined to form the PMU at a meeting in Duesseldorf, Germany from May 2-4, while the movement's constituent assembly was held in Berlin in May 25 with some 60 activists attending.