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Islamic Party Boss Rejects Tajik Officials' Claim He Was Behind General's Deadly Mutiny

Muhiddin Kabiri says that "the general's mutiny was skillfully used by Tajik authorities to reach their long goal at last, which is to depict us as radicals and extremists."

DUSHANBE -- The exiled leader of a recently banned Islamic political party in Tajikistan has rejected officials' accusations that he ordered a deadly mutiny last week by a serving deputy defense minister.

The head of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), Muhiddin Kabiri, told RFE/RL via electronic message that "I absolutely deny all the accusations, as neither I nor our party have anything to do with those developments."

In a statement on September 17, the Tajik Prosecutor-General's Office said the deputy minister, Abduhalim Nazarzoda, who was killed in a special operation this week after officials blamed him for attacks on a police station and weapons depot, was acting on orders from Kabiri and his party's leadership.

The prosecutors said the Islamic party's aim was to create a network of "20 criminal groups."

The September 4 attacks occurred against the backdrop of a new official ban on activities by the IRPT, which is among Tajikistan's largest and was for many years the only registered Islamic political party in any of Central Asia's five post-Soviet republics.

Kabiri told RFE/RL that Nazarzoda -- a former member of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) that allied democratic, nationalist, and Islamist forces against government troops during Tajikistan's civil war in the 1990s -- had never been a party member and had nothing to do with the IRPT.

The Prosecutor-General's Office also named 13 IRPT leaders and activists it said were suspected of abetting party leader Kabiri's plot, saying that they had been arrested "to prevent more terrorist attacks in the country."

Tajikistan's Justice Ministry last month banned the IRPT, claiming it lacked popular support to qualify as a registered party.

Tajikistan's government blamed Nazarzoda and his fighters for attacks on September 4 against a police station and an arsenal near Dushanbe that killed 26 people, including nine police and 17 militants.

Tajik officials say Nazarzoda was killed along with 10 of his supporters during a battle against government forces in the Romit Gorge area east of Dushanbe on September 16.

Tajik Radicalization 'Inevitable'

IRPT leader Kabiri told RFE/RL from his self-imposed exile that "the general's mutiny was skillfully used by Tajik authorities to reach their long goal at last, which is to depict us as radicals and extremists."

Nazarzoda's motives rather lie in the government's "erroneous" policies, Kabiri added.

Kabiri also reiterated pledges from IRPT officials that the group was not going to go underground.

"We will not go underground or start any radical activities," Kabiri told RFE/RL. "We will continue conducting our activities in accordance with laws and regulations of our country and countries we will be in."

But he warned that Tajik society's radicalization is "inevitable" under such circumstances.

"I very much hope that the world community will properly evaluate the situation and will not give Tajik authorities the chance to use the [radicalization] of society to crack down on dissent," Kabiri said.

"I understand that while the fight against the [Mideast-based militant group] Islamic State and other extremists groups is under way, the majority [of the world] thinks and makes decisions in a stereotyped way. But if rapid measures against repression [in Tajikistan] are not made, that will inevitably lead to a major human tragedy in Tajikistan."

The IRPT played an important part in Tajikistan's devastating 1992-97 civil war, which left tens of thousands dead and over 1 million people displaced.

It had been represented in the Tajik parliament for 15 years until its total defeat in the last parliamentary elections, in March, followed by the total ban announced in late August.