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Tajik Religious Figure's Cotton Plant Damaged In 'Arson Attack'

Workers try to salvage what they can from bales of cotton damaged in a fire at a factory owned by the prominent Tajik religious and political figure Hoji Akbar Turajonzoda in Vahdat city.
DUSHANBE -- A cotton-processing plant belonging to a prominent Tajik religious and political figure has been damaged by fire in what he is calling an arson attack, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

The plant in the city of Vahdat, 30 kilometers east of Dushanbe, is owned by Hoji Akbar Turajonzoda, a respected religious leader and former deputy prime minister.

The fire destroyed some 600 bales of processed cotton. The local fire department found a plastic bottle containing gasoline near the site of the blaze.

Turajonzoda told RFE/RL that he has no idea who was responsible, or whether the motivation was political or economic.

Turajonzoda served from 1988-1991 as Tajikistan's highest religious authority. During the 1992-1997 civil war, he was the second most senior member of the United Tajik Opposition.

After the war ended, he served as a deputy prime minister from 1998-2005, when President Emomali Rahmon appointed him for five years as a member of the upper chamber of parliament.

He purchased the Vahdat cotton-processing plant at auction in 2000.

Turajonzoda recently denounced the new law on parental responsibility, which bans most children under the age of 18 from attending regular Friday Prayers in mosques, as "openly against the will of God."

See video and read more in Tajik here