DUSHANBE -- The mother of a Tajik man who is suspected of carrying out a fatal attack against a group of foreign cyclists in the Central Asian country in July poured gasoline on herself outside the Dushanbe office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Gulhehra Shodmonova was approached by police and taken into custody after the incident on September 7.
Shodmonova was protesting the participation of the leader of the banned Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), Muhiddin Kabiri, in a human-rights conference sponsored by the OSCE.
Shodmonova and the Tajik authorities have accused Kabiri of influencing her son, Hussein Abdusamadov, and leading him astray.
Abdusamadov was detained on July 31 and is accused of being the "cell leader" of a group of five Tajik men suspected of carrying out the July 29 attack on a highway some 120 kilometers from Dushanbe, in which a car rammed into the group of cyclists before multiple attackers emerged from the vehicle and stabbed survivors, killing two Americans, a Swiss, and a Dutch national. Two foreign cyclists were injured.
The extremist group Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the attack shortly after it occurred and released a video showing five men -- at least some of whom appeared to resemble those identified by Tajik officials as suspects killed in a confrontation with security forces -- pledging allegiance to the IS leader. But the government maintained the suspects were members of the IRPT, which they have blamed for the attack.
In a television appearance on September 4 that was organized by the Tajik security agency, Abdusamadov confessed to the crime and said he carried it out at the behest of IRPT member Kori Nosir. Such public confessions are common in the former Soviet Union, and rights activists say detainees are sometimes forced to make them.
The leadership of the IRPT has denied responsibility for the attack, calling the authorities' claims "baseless and irrational."
Tajik authorities have imprisoned dozens of IRPT officials and members since 2015, when the party was designated a "terrorist organization" by the Supreme Court and banned. The ban on the party and prosecution of its members have drawn criticism from international human rights groups and the UN.
Activists accuse President Emomali Rahmon's government of using the group -- which was formerly the only registered Islamic political party in former Soviet Central Asia -- as a scapegoat for unrest and attacks in the predominantly Muslim country that borders Afghanistan.