BISHKEK -- The Kyrgyz Interior Ministry says an ethnic Uzbek imam from southern Kyrgyzstan has been arrested and charged with fraud, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.
Rashod Kamolov is the imam of the mosque in the Kara-Suu district of the Osh region.
He was arrested at Bishkek's Manas Airport on January 18. The following day Bishkek's Sverdlov district court ruled that he should be held in pretrial detention.
According to a police press release, Kamolov was arrested based on a complaint filed by two Uzbek citizens who claimed they paid Kamolov some $6,300 in exchange for arranging their trip to Saudi Arabia for the hajj. But they say he took their money without providing the trip.
Dilyor Jumaboev, a member of the Public Commission on Peace in Kara-Suu, formed to maintain peace in the city after the violent events in the Osh region in June, told RFE/RL that any persecution of Kamolov by Kyrgyz officials could provoke large protests in Kara-Suu, where the imam is very popular.
"The people of Kara-Suu are ready to protect their leader or anyone from the city," Jumaboev said, noting that Kamolov was detained "several times" before and the last time it happened, from 5,000 to15,000 people gathered in Kara-Suu.
Kamolov's several-hour detention on July 12 sparked huge protests. He told RFE/RL that Kyrgyz security officers told him that it was only a matter of time before he would be arrested again.
The situation in Kara-Suu today was calm despite Kamolov's absence at Friday Prayers, which he usually conducts as a chief imam in the area.
Kara-Suu is on the border with Uzbekistan, where practicing Muslims are often persecuted.
Kamolov is a son of the prominent ethnic Uzbek Muslim cleric Rafik Kamolov, who was killed in a special joint operation by Uzbek and Kyrgyz special services targeting alleged Islamic militants four years ago.